Some customers may not be as familiar with the scissors leap as they are with an arabesque, but gymnasts who come to your store will know what leotard they need to execute a specific move. Offering necessities to local gymnasts—long-sleeve or tank-style leotards (many now in flashier hologram, metallic or crushed velvet), along with wrist savers, mats, bags, chalk, grips and sports bras—can be a win-win for sales, even when most of your customers are dancers. Depending on the timing of local classes, practices and competitions, “seasonal” can be any time of year when it comes to gymnastics sales. And so, while margins may not be as big and inventory can sometimes be hit or miss, many dance retailers still see the benefit of catering to their local gymnasts.
Gymnastics is a year-round business at Accents Dancewear in Berkeley Heights, NJ, but back-to-school, with local classes and competitions getting in full swing, is the busiest season, according to owner Mary Jane Kantor. The store stocks gym wear from such vendors as GK Elite, Alpha Factor, Motionwear, Só Dança, Capezio and Eurotard Dancewear. It rounds out its gymnastics offerings with shorts, grips, grip bags, scrunchies and nonslip, soft gymnastics shoes (although most gyms have their students go barefoot, according to Kantor).
Kantor says that gymnastics sales don’t fill a huge void in slower dance months, but overall they are still an asset. Accents’ gymnastics clientele ranges from toddler to teen; people dance at all ages, but adult gymnasts are rare. Kantor skips the gymnastics trade shows and opts to buy through sales reps or catalogs. “If the gymnastics wear is from one of my dance vendors,” she says, “I can see it here at my store when the vendor comes to show me the seasonal dancewear.”
For competitions, most of the local gyms require long-sleeve leotards, embellished with crystals and embroidered with the gym’s name. These higher-priced pieces can run upward of $200. Kantor can order whatever a gym needs directly through the vendor. She also stocks more everyday, practice leotards—mostly the sleeveless tank style—for gymnasts. What Kantor has learned is that when it comes to gymnastics, every gym is different, but as with competitive dancers, gymnasts’ needs are always quite specific. “As with dance, many of the girls are at the gym five or six days a week, and they need a lot of leotards,” says Kantor. “One gym requires a specific uniform for practice. Each day is a specific style and color, with the gym name or logo on it, which they order through me.”
Summertime is when Dancer’s Closet does its best gymnastics sales, although demand has gone down in recent years, according to Shelley Hale, general manager of the dance shop, which has two locations, in Westlake and Round Rock, TX (Greater Austin). Now the store carries a small rack, mostly in children’s sizes. Regular leotards and biketards also sell well among gym students age 3 to 12.
Hale tries to offer different styles and price points by stocking vendors like Basic Moves, Leo and Snowflake. The store also offers sports bras, undergarments (for performances and competitions) and hot shorts. Hale says that when gyms need something they will come to her, although some order directly through vendors. “In our area, [gyms] tend to have their own small shops inside their gyms,” says Hale. “What we provide is usually a more affordable, fun selection.”
Fall into Gymnastics
As gymnastics classes usually start back up in the fall months and go through January, that’s when Gabie’s Boutique in Newmarket, ON, sees an uptick in this category’s sales. After that peak season, the retailer stays pretty consistent with its gymwear sales throughout the year, according to Amy Manning, store manager. Year-round gymnastics inventory caters to gymnasts signed up for mini-sessions of training that usually run six to eight weeks and to those registered for a full season. “We don’t work directly with gyms; however, we do send information to them and follow them on social media,” says Manning. “We mostly market directly to gymnasts and then support the local gyms with any events or things they are doing.”
Gymnastics suits, biketards, shorts, accessories, grips and giftware are some of the store’s offerings for gymnasts, with apparel in adult and children’s sizes. Manning has her go-to list of vendors for gymnastics gear and wear. “We haven’t been to or heard of any specialized trade shows for gymnastics wear,” says Manning. “However, we are in Canada, so it is a much smaller market here [for gymnastics].”
Tina Benitez-Eves is a New York–based writer.
Photos (from top): courtesy of Gabie’s Boutique, Dancer’s Closet