Women's sportswear scores big sales

Marketplace producer Millie Jefferson with her Spirit Fingerz.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: You may have heard about this: Something of a big event coming up this weekend involving the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And it's generating some excitement, judging by the $10 billion expected to be spent on the game this year, when you add up all the chips and beer, new TVs -- and of course team-themed gear, including a lot more designed specifically for the female fan.

Enter Millie Jefferson, our colleague and resident sports nut. She'll be rooting for the Packers this weekend. So to wish her and her team well, we got her a little something.

Moon: OK, this is for you.

Millie Jefferson laughing

Moon: OK tell us what you got there.

Jefferson: I have a pair of Green Bay gloves with poms on the end of them.

Moon: Now what are you going to do with these?

Jefferson: Well, surely I'm wearing them on Sunday.

Moon: The gloves are called "Spirit Fingerz," with a 'Z' on the end of the name, kind of like the poms poms on the end of the fingertips.

Teresa Denham: The name came as quickly as the concept did.

Moon: Which is to say, in minutes. Teresa Denham came up with the idea, getting ready for a cold night at a Virginia Tech game a few years back.

Denham: As a child, I had taken the poms poms and put them in my hair, in my shoes, and on my way out to this Virginia Tech game, all of a sudden they suddenly appeared on this pair of gloves.

Teresa took her creation to market in 2008. Dozens of collegiate and NFL teams later, she's got a million-dollar business.

Denham: I oftentimes think I cannot have been the first person to develop this concept. It's like the Post-It. It's so simple.

Never occurred to me. But as they say, timing is everything. Consumer research group NPD reports the women's segment of sportswear and sporting goods is booming. It grew 16 percent last year.

John Long is a retail strategist with Kurt Salmon in New York.

John Long: Men aren't the only couch potatoes around. There's about 45 million women who watch professional football each weekend and so a lot of this merchandise is catering to that ever-growing and quite large population.

The NFL's caught on. John Long points out the website women.nfl.com. It features the wives of players, owners and coaches talking about fashion and peddling team t-shirts and sweatshirts tailored to a women's silhouette.

Long: It's not just about having a T-shirt that's pink, right? It's about a T-shirt that feels good and looks good.

One of web shop's taglines: "This Ain't Your Daddy's NFL Gear."

Terry Lefton is editor-at-large for the Sports Business Journal. He says it's no wonder the women's market for sports products is growing; there's not a whole lot more you can push to men.

Terry Lefton: We are almost at the point where you can name a product and it's probably got a license on it -- you can get a trailer hitch with a license on it, you could buy a BBQ with a license on it. Actually one of my favorite things for the Packers is that you still have time before your Super Bowl party to go out and buy a Packers-logo cheeseboard if you really want to.

With 110 million people expected to tune into the game this time -- perhaps the largest audience ever -- Lefton says the winning team might just sell a record amount of product, too.

So if that other team wins -- sorry Millie -- you can also find Spirit Fingerz in black and gold. Or a pair of black-and-gold striped tights, or nail polish, or -- well, you get the idea.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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