Analysts Mixed on Volcom Shoe Prospects

Analysts this week were split on the potential footwear business Volcom could generate now that French luxury group PPR SA, which also owns Puma, has acquired it for $608 million.

Volcom currently has a successful, though small, footwear offering of mainly flip-flops and sandals, which last year rang up $4.3 million in sales in the U.S.

Jeff Van Sinderen, an analyst at B. Riley & Co., said that with PPR’s vast resources, footwear would be a natural extension for the brand. “Why shouldn’t there be a big Volcom footwear line?” he said. “PPR will want to extend the brand wherever it makes sense, and it has the infrastructure to do that. My sense is [that it would] want a presence in footwear.”

Van Sinderen drew an analogy between what PPR could potentially do with Volcom’s footwear offering to what VF Corp. was able to accomplish with Vans. “Look how big Vans apparel is under VF,” he said. “There is a similar opportunity for Volcom. I’m not saying it is going to be the next Vans or DC, but there is an opportunity there.”

But R.W. Baird analyst Mitch Kummetz likened the deal to a different cautionary tale in the footwear business. After Nike purchased Hurley nearly 10 years ago, it took the brand into shoes, which proved a hard sell.

“When Nike bought Hurley, one of the first things it did was start a footwear program. [Nike] eventually abandoned it,” Kummetz said.

Since then, the athletic powerhouse has found success in the action-sports market with Nike SB and Nike 6.0, but the lesson, Kummetz said, is that consumers aren’t always open to apparel labels branching out into footwear.

“I don’t know what PPR’s plans are, but [shoes] would be a tough [category for growth],” he said. “I really don’t see that action-sports consumer looking for Volcom closed-toe footwear, especially something athletic.”

For its part, PPR has not laid out its strategy for Volcom, other than to say it has the resources to pursue a variety of opportunities. “With its expertise gained through its luxury brands and Puma, PPR can bring international market knowledge, sourcing capabilities and operational expertise in areas such as product development [in footwear] to help Volcom accelerate sales growth,” said a PPR spokeswoman.

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