In a push to jumpstart its apparel business, New Balance Athletic Shoe
Inc. acquired Vital Apparel Group. The purchase price was not
disclosed. Vital Apparel Group, based in Huntington, NY,
comprises Vital Apparel, a women’s active brand; Vital Accessories,
which has the license for Soffe accessories; and the Vital Performance
division, which includes InSport, a running apparel and military-issue
brand. It also produces Aspire, a Sports Authority private-label brand.
In June, Vital signed a licensing agreement to develop branded apparel
for the New Balance-owned Warrior brand.

Vital’s operations will continue to be based in New York. Its
approximately 100 employees will be retained. Vital president Kerry
Kligerman will become executive vice president of New Balance’s apparel
division, which will remain headquartered in Lawrence, MA.

The acquisition is the first by New Balance since Rob DeMartini became
CEO in April and was charged with making the $1.55 billion company a $3
billion one by 2012.

New Balance said Vital will continue to maintain their current business
but also use their experience and familiarity with a couple of key
channels, particularly sporting goods, to help lead development of the
New Balance brand in apparel. New Balance's apparel accounts for less
than 10% of sales while making up at least a third of sales for
competitors such as Nike, adidas and Reebok.

“Our acquisition of Vital gives us significant opportunities to
accelerate the growth of New Balance apparel,” said DeMartini. “We take
our responsibility to drive category growth for our retailer’s athletic
apparel business very seriously. The New Balance brand can drive
incremental sales for our customers, and Vital’s leadership and
expertise in the sporting goods channel complements both our team’s
core competencies in product innovation and customer service.”