Sportswear maker Mizuno muscles in on corporate uniforms

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo News

Sportswear manufacturers are making inroads into the corporate uniform market by using knowhow gleaned from making sports uniforms.

Mizuno Corp., the nation’s largest sporting goods manufacturer, has developed a fashionable yet functional uniform for those whose jobs involve a fair amount of repetition, including fast-food workers and deliverers.

The uniform employs special draping used for the shoulders and sleeves of judo and table tennis uniforms.

“We gave priority to mobility and reducing fatigue for salesclerks,” said Tetsuro Yamada, deputy director of Mizuno’s corporate customer department.

Ringer Hut Co., an operator of a chain of noodle restaurants, said Mizuno’s uniform has been well received since it started using it in March.

“It does not lose shape through long wear, and the shirttail does not pop out when serving bowls of noodles,” Ringer Hut spokesman Yuko Terashima said.

Ringer Hut plans to adopt Mizuno’s uniforms for all 10,000 of its workers by early next year.

Osaka-based Mizuno branched out into the uniform business in 2002, using high-performance fabrics designed to keep wearers comfortable in the summer and warm in the winter.

Since then, the company has delivered uniforms to more than 50 companies, including major transport company Sagawa Express Co. and Duskin Co., which operates the Mister Donut chain.

Mizuno expects sales from its uniform business to reach about 5 billion yen, or 4 percent of total domestic sales, in fiscal 2005, which ends next March. It plans to double that to 10 billion yen in 10 years.

Meanwhile, Tokyo-based Phenix Co., one of the nation’s largest skiwear manufacturers, began marketing DEOSEAM outerwear and underwear in May. The company claims its DEOSEAM products reduce odor created by perspiration.

Phenix, hit by slumping skiwear sales, is being rehabilitated under guidance from the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan. It is depending on DEOSEAM to help it get back on its feet.

Sample products tested by mountaineers and professional photographers have received favorable responses. Camouflage uniforms made of DEOSEAM are also being tested by the Ground Self-Defense Force.

“The GSDF personnel loved the uniforms because they do not smell even after several days of military training,” said Naoya Iwasaka, Phenix’s sales manager.

The company has already sold about 30,000 camouflage uniforms to the Self-Defense Forces.

The company has set up a project team to develop corporate uniforms, expecting DEOSEAM uniforms to be in good demand mainly at fast-food chains and delivery companies.