Speedo last week said its LZR Racer swimsuit should have no problem being the primary swimsuit used in the upcoming Beijing Olympic games despite assorted calls for banning the record-breaking product.
“As it stands right now, the suit is FINA [swimming's governing body] approved. It was developed with FINA's involvement from the start,” said Helen McCluskey, president of intimate apparel and swimwear for Warnaco Group Inc, the parent of Speedo, at an analyst meeting last week. “So, we don't believe there's any risk of not being able to participate in the Olympics.”
LZR Racer has attracted a great deal of controversy after breaking 14 worldwide records in a four-week timeframe since its launch in February. The flurry of world records has created an international outcry from those who believe the suit gives some swimmers an unfair advantage over those athletes not wearing the suits. Not only is availability of the suit an issue at ongoing Olympic trials, but some athletes are required to wear other brands under existing equipment contracts. French swimming officials have called for a debate over the ethics of such technology, while FINA has agreed to re-evaluate the thickness of the suits amid concerns they aid buoyancy.
“Certainly, breaking that many world records in a matter of four weeks has raised a lot of eyebrows and a lot of questions, but we knew in testing that this suit was the fastest suit out there,” said McCluskey. “So, based on everything that we know, there is no risk. FINA did approve it. They were involved in the development process. So right now, we're very appreciative of all the PR surrounding it, and the great results.”
Regarding the Speedo business, McCluskey said Warnaco continues to have a goal to return Speedo to its historic profit level, a high-teen operating margin, over the next five years. Much of the improvement, according to McCluskey, will stem from improving processes such as inventory management and speed to market. Plans call for reinforcing Speedo's dominant position in competitive swim, where it has leading share in both swim and goggles, by exploiting the success of the LZR Racer swimsuit. Speedo also plans to better leverage its position in competitive swim into fashion.
“We'll provide fashion with a point of view, with a purpose, whether it's quick dry, UV,” said McCluskey. “All of the innovative functionality that we use in competitive swim – we will leverage into the fashion segment.”