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COULD THE WORST BE OVER? SNEAKER INDUSTRY SEES RAYS OF HOPE

          Rebounding from "last year's nasty slump," the sneaker
     industry is "showing signs of life," as "fashion seems to be
     shifting back to" athletic shoes, according to Evelyn
     Nussenbaum of the N.Y. POST.  First Security Van Kasper
     analyst John Shanley said, "It's a fashion cycle.  It's the
     demise of hip-hop, which is being replaced by more clean-cut
     types of clothes.  And those go better with sneakers." 
     Additionally, consumers are "finally excited about" new
     products on the market.  Black & Company's Jennifer Black
     said, "There's finally enough newness in the mall to attract
     customers."  Nike's $125 "Tuned Air" is "one of the most
     talked-about new products," and Shanley said the "most
     encouraging" aspect about the Tuned Air is that "it's being
     done without an endorsement.  There's no Michael Jordan for
     Tuned Air.  Kids are buying it because they like it."  But
     some industry observers say that they're "not sure whether
     the sneaker business is really growing, or just shifting
     from some brands to others."   One analyst: "There are a lot
     of new players out there.  Nike is maintaining its market
     share.  But below Nike I think there are a lot of people
     just trading places" (N.Y. POST, 5/10).

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