By  on August 15, 2007

Le Coq Sportif is taking another crack at resuscitating its brand.

Under new owners, the French sportswear company hopes to find the footing it lost over the last two decades by keeping the distribution small and making the women's and men's sportswear, activewear and footwear true to its heritage.

"Our formula is sport plus France plus fashion equals Le Coq Sportif," said Tim McCool, chief executive officer of Le Coq Sportif's Portland, Ore.-based North American subsidiary.

Founded as a family business in France in 1882, its iconic logo of a rooster set within a triangle helped it grow into a popular sports apparel brand by the Fifties. In the last quarter century, the company has changed hands several times: Adidas sold the brand to Brown Shoe Co. Inc. in 1995, which sold it to a private French firm in 1999, which in 2005 sold the majority interest to Airesis — in which former Adidas head Robert Louis-Dreyfus is a principal.

"Once it left Adidas and went to other owners who licensed it out, the brand lost its way," said McCool. "There was no reinvestment in the brand."

The new owners bought back its distribution in 2006, when distribution discontinued in the U.S. Prior to that, volume in the U.S. had been less than $10 million; McCool projects U.S. volume will reach $10 million wholesale over the next few years.

Unlike previous incarnations of Le Coq Sportif, the U.S. products will not be separate from the French ones. The clothes blend retro, European and sport aesthetics in pieces such as a Twenties-inspired tennis dress or knee-length walking shorts. The product offerings will have two main focuses: fashion and sport. Fashion should make up about a third of sales, while the sport collection — which centers around tennis — should bring in about double that. The apparel wholesales from approximately $20 to $50.

"The brand does not have much identity in the U.S.," McCool admitted. "We asked ourselves, who remembered us in the U.S.? We think they are 25- to 30-year-olds who play tennis. And who knows us in the U.S.? That's 20- to 30-year-olds who travel and know us from abroad. Together these higher income young men and women make up the pillar of our target in the U.S. market."

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