Serious joggers, faddish consumers, hard-core athletes and kids are burning rubber on the streets of Washington. And athletic shoe retailers say the rush to dress and look athletic is booming.
"This is where it's gonna be," asserted George Huegel, assistant manager for the Foot Locker at White Flint Mall. "Times are changing, and people are physically taking care of themselves."
On a typical Saturday, the store, which ranks third among Foot Locker's 25 Eastern Seaboard stores, takes in about $5,000 or $6,000. That's about 220 pairs of shoes carrying an average price tag of $25. And plans are to increase inventory by $200,000.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "There's just so much demand." And there's enough to go around for everyone, he said.
Former professional football player Lonnie Crittenden, manager-owner of Athletic Attic at the Mazza Gallerie, is going after the serious athlete who he believes can benefit from Crittenden's knowledge of professional training and equipment needs.
"Our approach is to personalize and specialize. Our salesmen still train and compete using out own products," he explained."So we understand what we sell."
"We give advice on nutrition, foot structure, biomechanics, shoe designs -- the whole concept of running." And repeat customers tend to be athletes. "Our lingo is the same," Crittenden said.
Meanwhile, independent retailers and sporting goods stores -- the ones who have supplies families with sneakers and tennis shoes before the boom -- are feeling the pinch from speciality stores. But most are emerging with their own clientele.
Rich Gunter, manager of the Leather Ball, a sporting goods outlet in Gaithersburg, said that recent competition has pushed shoe sales down from 45 percent to 35 percent of business.
But shoe resoling there is on the increase and, of his business, about 65 percent to 70 percent of shoes are for children and young adults.
"When some kids go through four and five pair a year, not many parents want to spend $25 and $30 for shoes," Gunter said.
Tom Garner, who oversees the Springfield Mall branch of Athletes Foot, which has five units in the area, said that despite complaints of high prices, demand is "skyrocketing."
"Everybody runs from secretaries to lieutenant colonels to high school athletes, "Garner said. "They're the most comfortable shoes made so far. I even had a 78-year-old grandmother come in today and buy a $30 pair of shoes for walking."
"The 1980 Olympics will produce a lot of advertising," said Crittenden. "And that will stimulate interest by people to buy. And when the 1984 Olympics opens in Los Angeles, everyone will be there.