By  on December 16, 2004

NEW YORK — Adidas is stepping up its focus on the burgeoning outdoor market.

The activewear giant has named its first global director for this category, Brad Gebhard, who is based in Portland, Ore., where the outdoor division has its headquarters. Adidas will begin selling outdoor apparel in the U.S. for the first time for fall 2005, and also plans to increase its marketing for the division.

“We are producing compelling product in this market, but we haven’t really devoted a lot of resources to it until now,” said Lawrence Motola, category manager for Adidas Outdoor.

The outdoor division began in 1992 and includes technical footwear and apparel products, which are sold primarily in Europe. Motola declined to gives sales figures for the division, but global sales are estimated at about $10 million.

While Adidas has faced sales declines in North America in the last two years, Adidas-Salomon chief executive officer Herbert Hainer said in November that the North American division was in the midst of a turnaround. The move into outdoor is one of a number of initiatives to expand its business and grow market share here. Among the strategies to pump up its business are an aggressive marketing campaign and new collaborative collections with Missy Elliott and Stella McCartney.

The Adidas outdoor apparel products will make their debut for American retailers at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City in January. Footwear has been sold in the U.S. for several years, and that segment continues to grow with new technologies and more use of Gore-Tex and Thinsulate materials, Motola said. The company is looking to sell the apparel line in about 50 stores in the U.S. for fall and is targeting locations where the outdoor footwear is sold already, including REI and EMS.

Many of the apparel offerings incorporate Adidas’ proprietary Clima365 technology, which incudes properties such as wicking, ventilation and water repellency. Among the extensive collection of apparel are fleece jackets, waterproof shells and parkas, as well as vests, long-sleeved tops, wool tops, and quick-dry T-shirts, many of which are designed as layering systems. There is also a selection of shorts as well as windproof and rainproof pants. The women’s offerings, which have fitted silhouettes, are available in bright colors such as green, gold and ice blue.Wholesale prices run from about $15 for short-sleeved T-shirts and $17.50 for long-sleeved ones, to soft-shell jackets for $50 and three-layer hard-shell jackets at $125.

Footwear options include trail sneakers and waterproof boots, as well as a selection of shoes for water sports.

“These are products that can be worn for a variety of activities such as hiking, running or climbing,” Motola noted. He said the company plans to market the collection in the U.S. with in-store training, support of outdoor athletes and through grassroot activities.

The outdoor segment has seen more activity lately, and outdoor products, including apparel and equipment, are estimated to have retail sales of about $12.7 billion, according to trade group Outdoor Industry Association. Companies like The North Face and Burton have been growing rapidly and continue to add new merchandise categories and women-focused offerings. At the same time, retailers including EMS and REI have been building up their own private label merchandise, while firms such as Under Armour are making inroads with technical products that can be worn for outdoor activities.

“Its a crowded market but we feel we have compelling product and there is room for us to grow in this area,” Motola added. “We see this as a long-term investment.”

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