NexCen Brands is developing its own line of branded apparel for its Athlete's Foot brand.

The new collection of athletic apparel and accessories is expected to arrive in franchise stores in the first quarter of 2008.

It's one of a new series of initiatives in store layout, graphics and marketing being spelled out for existing and prospective Athlete's Foot franchisees at the Global Franchise Convention being held this week at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Part of the programme is a new winged-foot logo for The Athlete's Foot, which was founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1971 and acquired by NexCen last October.

Speaking of the new clothing group, Robert D'Loren, president and CEO of NexCen, said: "The Athlete's Foot line of branded apparel will be a premier collection of athletic attire and accessories that provides our franchise owners with the added bonus of attractive margins.

"We anticipate that there will be significant demand for the line, which will be distributed exclusively through The Athlete's Foot stores for a time and may ultimately become available at other retail outlets."

He called the apparel group "an ideal conduit for raising the profile of the brand."

Also being unveiled for franchisees in Las Vegas is a new modular merchandising system consisting of four elements: TAFTech, emphasising athletic performance; Street Sports, representing the urban influence; Classic Athletic, picking up on a "retro, collegiate varsity style," and Fusion, inspired by extreme and board sports.

Franchisees can select modules that are appropriate for their local demographics and product preferences. Wall and floor units and matching graphics assortments can be selected based on the retailer's selections.

"Our new merchandising system empowers our store owners to meet the demands of all of those customers, from the suburban runner to the urban skateboard enthusiast," D'Loren said.

The company is also launching a series of operational tools, including a brand-wide intranet and in-store video system, to enhance efficiency for owners and entertainment value for shoppers.

NexCen said it has hired a trend-watching organisation to provide monthly reports to stores. The aim is to supply operators with useful lifestyle and cultural information that can be included in merchandising decisions.

"We are fully committed to growing the global dominance of The Athlete's Foot brand by remaining locally relevant in each of the communities we serve," D'Loren said. "We want to empower our franchisees to make informed decisions about what will maximise their performance."

In addition to The Athlete's Foot, NexCen's brand portfolio includes Bill Blass and Waverly. The Athlete's Foot has stores in over 40 countries.
By Arnold J Karr.