Varsity cheers on two spin-offs

Jun 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

Varsity Spirit Corp. is branching out from the football field to the recital hall. The $54 million cataloger, whose core book sells uniforms for cheerleading and pep squads, is spinning off two catalogs of dance apparel and accessories.

“We have featured dance apparel in small amounts in our core catalog over the past five years,” says Kraig Tallman, Varsity’s catalog director/merchandiser. “Dance has become so popular that we felt justified in producing a whole new catalog with a full line of dancewear for all competitions.”

The Art of the Dance, which Varsity mailed the week of April 13, sells apparel and accessories for dance and drill teams, including tall and short flag teams (whose routines use tall and short poles) and pompom squads, whose routines are less gymnastic than those of cheerleaders. “Our target group is 10- to 17-year-olds, with a strong high school client base,” Tallman says. The annual catalog will initially mail to 35,000 of the same schools that receive Varsity’s core book, but it will be sent to dance teachers and advisers, rather than to cheerleading coaches.

“Our customers have asked us to make this apparel, as we are well known for sponsoring dance and cheer competitions on [cable TV network] ESPN as well as for our camp programs, dance competitions, and conventions throughout the U.S.,” Tallman says. An unspecified percentage of the merchandise in the 52-page Art of the Dance is new, but some of the bags, pompoms, and apparel are also featured in Varsity’s 184-page core book. Sales manager Brian Carroll estimates the average order for the dance book as $3,000-$5,000; dance teams vary in size from six to 50 girls.

Graduating from high schools The company has also started a second spin-off, Varsity Recital. “The book will be ready by August, in time for September, when the recital schools open,” Tallman says. These private after-hours schools and studios teach a variety of dance forms, such as tap, ballet, and jazz. The new catalog’s apparel will mainly be themed costumes, and few accessories will be offered.

Varsity Recital will target a different audience from that of the direct mailer’s other catalogs, says Kline Boyd, the company’s senior vice president/general manager. Rather than mailing solely to teachers and coaches, “we will be targeting individuals ages 3-20 attending dance schools and studios, which have fewer students than high schools.” The recital market is very fragmented, Boyd adds, with dancers in different regions favoring different types of dance. In the Northeast, for example, classical ballet is popular, while in the West, jazz is more popular, so Varsity needs to market to all these regional variances.