This year hasn’t been all that kind to Under Armour.
The Baltimore-based activewear brand spent much of the past two decades as the burr under the saddle of the market leader, Nike, and Germany’s biggest player, Adidas. In 2014, it even elbowed Adidas out of the number-two spot in the U.S. sportswear market — for a time. Adidas has since recovered its second place ranking and Under Armour, with sales of around $5 billion, is now third again with revenues some $30 billion behind Nike and $15 billion behind Adidas, which is having a resurgence.
But thanks in large part to the struggling U.S. retail market — and the loss of one of its largest customers with the liquidation of Sports Authority — Under Armour has hit some major speed bumps.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, the company posted its weakest sales growth in nearly a decade and said 2017 would see smaller growth, leading to downgrades from Wall Street analysts. Then in the first quarter of this year, it posted its first quarterly net loss since going public in 2005.
On top of the financial issues, the company’s founder and chief executive officer Kevin Plank ran into trouble by expressing support for President Trump’s pro-America stance during an interview on CNBC. Plank subsequently resigned from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in the wake of the controversy in Charlottesville, Va., last week.
But Under Armour being Under Armour, it never shies away from a fight, and the brand recently went on the offensive, outlining a new game plan designed to “pivot” it back to a better place.
It brought on VF Corp. veteran Patrik Frisk as president and chief operating officer in July and outlined a restructuring plan that will lead to $110 million to $130 million in pretax restructuring charges this year, including $15 million for employee severance and $30 million to terminate contracts.
The plan includes beefing up its women’s and children’s collections to complement its strong men’s wear offering, becoming more of a global player, and depending more on direct-to-consumer initiatives and less on a wholesale model. The flashy Brand Houses the company has opened in major markets are part of that plan, and the brand will open a 53,000-square-foot store in the former FAO Schwarz space on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York in 2018 or after, boasting that it will be “the most breathtaking and exciting consumer experience ever conceived at retail.”
Other bright spots include its successful entry into Kohl’s with a collection of active apparel and footwear for the family and the launch of Under Armour Sportswear, or UAS, designed by Tim Coppens, which put it on the fashion map.
In the second half, Under Armour hopes to strengthen its fledgling footwear business by releasing some high-profile models, including the Curry 4, along with a new fashion-skewed apparel collection, Unstoppable Lifestyle, which is being kept under wraps for the time being.
As for its two big competitors, they’re also turning up the heat. Nike this week opened a pop-up to celebrate Roger Federer in New York during the U.S. Open, and is launching Off Campus, a collaboration with designer Virgil Abloh of Off-White that it is billing as “a cultural learning environment for the advancement of sport, design and innovation” from Sept. 6 to 8. The two are also teaming on Ten, Abloh’s reinvention of 10 of the brand’s footwear models including the Air Jordan 1, the Air Max 90 and the Blazer. Those shoes will drop on Sept. 9.
Adidas is also continuing its association with some bold-face names including Alexander Wang , whose bike messenger-meets-raver collection launched at the end of July, as well as Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto and Kanye West.