Milestone: The Cat Stalks Strong Sales

For Puma to accelerate its growth and take share, it’s going to be a balancing act, according to Curtis Charles, SVP of sales for Puma North America.

“Puma is at its best at the two ends of the spectrum: We need to be relevant on the fashion side and we need to be relevant on the performance side. The sweet spot for us is where those two things meet.”

Re-establishing that balance has meant repositioning the Puma brand in fashion channels. In the past 18 months, a focus on luxury boutiques and department stores, as well as sneakerhead accounts, has paid off in high double-digit sales growth, Charles said.

Another success story has come from taking influence from the brand’s high-fashion collaborations — the Mihara Yasuhiro line and Alexander McQueen product, as well as classic heritage styles — and ensuring it is targeted to the “urbanite” kid shopping at the mall and in more traditional sneaker stores.

“We’ve seen that business over the last 12 to 18 months skyrocket for us,” the executive said.

Another key initiative is to win the female consumer, both in the fashion channel and in streetwear. According to Charles, trendy new product such as sneaker wedges and flatforms (supported by robust in-store activations and social media) play into Puma’s heritage and have helped the brand reconnect with retail partners like American Rag and Fred Segal, and add back accounts that had fallen away, such as Urban Outfitters.

But equally important is the brand’s positioning in the performance world, and Charles said soccer will be the lead story.

“In the past we were spreading ourselves too thin and going after too many different initiatives. It [now] really starts with soccer for us. That is the heritage, and we are focused on reclaiming our dominant position,” he said.

Puma also is looking now at running and training as two sides to the same coin. “At the core of the brand, it’s about training and the athletes training to be better at their sport: You run to be fit,” Charles said. “As we fine-tune that message and drive that as a clear positioning for us, we’re seeing great success, and the accounts are appreciating the clarity.”

He added, “We’re excited about the future of the business and the brand, both globally and here in North America. After 18 rocky months, we’re poised for some good growth and to get back after being the best Puma.”

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