Under Armour Sets the Pace

NEW YORK — Major athletic retailers are optimistic that Under Armour’s recent running shoe launch will help fuel sales in a weak retail environment.

On Jan. 31, the Baltimore-based firm debuted its new collection, which features six models for men and women — four shoes for roadwork and two for trails — ranging in price from $85 to $120.

Foot Locker CEO Matt Serra told Footwear News he is excited about the potential for the brand’s footwear. “We are very pleased to be adding Under Armour footwear to our stores,” Serra said. “Under Armour has quickly emerged as one of the most sought-after athletic apparel brands in the U.S. We believe they have a very good opportunity to leverage their brand strength to do very well with athletic footwear.”

Serra said sales for the first several days of the launch were good and in line with Foot Locker’s expectations. He added that Foot Locker’s technical footwear business has been very solid, which should benefit Under Armour. “Additionally, their price points are somewhat lower than some of the other technical footwear we sell, which should work in their favor,” Serra noted.

Sam Sato, EVP and chief merchandising officer of The Finish Line, was also upbeat about the line’s potential. “As we move into spring, we historically experience a bump in running footwear sales and we would anticipate that Under Armour will benefit from the seasonal change as well,” he said.

Sato added that the style’s entry-level price helped it outperform some of the higher-priced models. Customers drawn to the shoes in the first few days tended to be technical runners and teens, he said.

Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago, said that more than 250 people attended his Under Armour running shoe launch event on Jan. 30. He noted that sales were distributed evenly between the four men’s and women’s road shoes he carries, and that customers at the event tended to be women, with the age range skewing a little younger than usual — between the late teens to 20s.

Event attendees tried out their new shoes on a midnight run on the lakefront of Chicago in single-digit temperatures. “It’s amazing to me that we created this energy around a company that’s not known for running, but they [have] a great tagline with a very true phrase — ‘Athletes Run,’” Zimmer said. “[The tagline] seemed to resonate with our customers.”

BEST GROUP Photo by Angelo Lanza Sponsored By ITA

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