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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sportswear makers gearing up for Olympics


OSAKA — With the London Olympics drawing near, Japanese sports apparel makers are racing to roll out T-shirts, swimwear and other items to show off for the world and enhance their presence in the global market.

Mizuno Corp. began accepting preorders in February and March for replica T-shirts, jerseys and caps to be worn by Japanese athletes at medals ceremonies.

A Mizuno representative said customer interest in the items has been "so good" and "we can expect more attention if many Japanese athletes do well and stand on the podium."

The jerseys are made of special materials that help to keep competitors cool. Small pockets have been added to the left sleeves of the jackets for portable music players.

The idea came from some Japanese team members, according to Mizuno.

The company said it will start a second round of advance orders for the products in August.

Descente Ltd., another sportswear and sporting goods manufacturer based in Osaka, began selling replica T-shirts and half-pants in May.

It launched swimsuits in January of the same type that two-time double Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima will wear in London.

"We have seen a constant shortfall in inventory for the swimsuits," a Descente official said.

It is up to the swimmers to decide which maker's suits they will wear for the competition, so it's crucial for manufacturers that their suits are selected.

A swimmer bringing home a medal means a huge surge in sales.

Asics Corp. has developed form-fitting swimsuits that reduce water resistance. The Kobe-based manufacturer plans to provide them to some Japanese swimmers.

"The share of our swimwear is gradually increasing," an Asics official said.

Swimwear developers view the London Olympics, which will run from July 27 to Aug. 12, as the first official world competition where they can gauge their products against their rivals since FINA, the governing body for aquatic sports, banned swimmers from wearing polyurethane or rubber suits after an unprecedented number of swimmers broke world records wearing high-tech suits like Speedo's LZR Racer.

Many Japanese sporting goods companies view the Olympics as a perfect opportunity to directly promote their brands in London to people from around the world.

Mizuno will operate a facility during the games to introduce its products and technologies, while Asics will open one of its largest outlets for running shoes and other items by the end of June.

According to Dentsu Innovation Institute, a research arm of the Dentsu advertising agency, the London Olympics will likely result in economic ripple effects totaling ¥800 billion in Japan alone.

An analyst at the institute said the economic effects will likely be 30 percent smaller than the 2008 Beijing Olympics due to the greater time difference between Britain and Japan, but the impact could be larger if Japanese athletes win medals.

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