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Despite his high-octane delivery and rapid-fire approach to listing growing sales figures, Kevin Plank acknowledged in his presentation at the FN Summit that it takes time to get things right. Nowhere has that been more apparent than with footwear.
The Under Armour Inc. founder and CEO, who opened the industry event, said his company is already seven years into the footwear business, launching first with cleats in 2006 before expanding into running and basketball product.
Lightheartedly, Plank noted other things that also take seven years: getting over a curse when you break a mirror, the 7-year itch, “The Golden Girls” seven-season run and the seven-year span of the teenage years. “When you’re getting into a category, it just takes time,” he said.
But good things apparently do come to those who wait — or, at the very least, have the patience to keep trying. Plank said Under Armour’s footwear business is on track to hit $200 million this year.
“We came into this industry backward,” he said. “We did apparel, then footwear. That was really hard. But now I feel good about where we are and where we are headed.”
The company spent $170 million last year on ad campaigns. During his presentation, Plank aired a highlight reel that featured NFL quarterback Cam Newton, as well as a mix of other pro and college athletes.
But growing Under Armour’s footwear business hasn’t been easy. Plank said he had to change the internal perception of the organization, encouraging employees to view footwear as an integral part of the business.
To do that, Plank got rid of the footwear showroom, and the company now integrates shoes into all presentations. He also hired an expanded team of footwear designers, many of whom have played sports on some level.
Additionally, Plank said the company would not move into other shoe categories until it becomes better at the segments it has already entered. The executive showed some of its newly tooled sneakers, drawing attention to a running shoe called the Charge RC.
The goal, Plank explained, is to empower athletes everywhere. Part of the plan includes the international market, which helps the Baltimore-based company grow revenues. Plank said Under Armour will continue to focus on the U.K., where it has sponsored soccer clubs in London’s Premier League and in rugby. Also on the overseas target list: Japan. The CEO noted the wholesale business there is nearing the $200 million mark.