Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Encouraged by retailers’ reaction to its women’s apparel, Adidas America aims to heighten interest in the brand by upgrading merchandising, offering more concept shops, launching performance-oriented activewear for pregnant women and broadening distribution in department and specialty stores.
That was the word from John “Ross” McMullin, chief executive officer, during a presentation for analysts Tuesday at a Banc of America conference at the Palace Hotel here.
In discussing the need for vendor input at retail, he praised Lady Foot Locker for its merchandising of women’s activewear, but said other specialty stores could use some work. Already, Adidas has teamed up with Nordstrom to develop women’s concept shops and sell-throughs have been “outstanding,” McMullin said. Photos and signs are being used in the stores to simplify shopping and attract consumers to the display.
On another front, through a deal with The Power of Two, a San Francisco-based company, Adidas has launched performance-oriented activewear for pregnant women.
Originals, an athletic-inspired group geared for leisure activities, bows for fall 2002 and is another way Adidas aims to build business among the less aerobically inclined.
In the next three years, Adidas will continue to shift money from marketing to increase its media buy by 30 percent. Now that the brand no longer has a licensing deal with the National Football League, it has more money to pursue collegiate licensing deals like one it has with the University of Notre Dame.
Adidas is looking to tie sponsored athletes like Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova to specific products, but not with signature collections.
Improving shipping is a priority, since that has been a common complaint among retailers, McMullin said. Keeping up with demand, operating efficiently and improving merchandising are the brand’s biggest challenges, he added.
“Our U.S. inventory is quite clean. We’re shifting more to auto replenishment,” he said. “We had some disastrous service levels in the past. We want to make sure we fill orders on time.”
McMullin said there were no plans for pink slips for employees at Adidas America’s corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.,
“We have the infrastructure to be a bigger company than we are. Rather than make changes, we want to hold on to what we have and drive top line sales,” McMullin said. Overseas, however, 5 percent of the warehouse workforce is being laid off.