APL Expands Into Running

Born in the world of basketball, Athletic Propulsion Labs has entered the running market for fall ’14, a move that gives the fledgling brand traction in the women’s category and a more fashionable market.

Founded in 2009 by identical twins Adam and Ryan Goldston, APL made news a year after its launch, when shoes featuring the company’s patented Load ’n Launch technology (touted to increase the vertical leap of the wearer) were banned by the NBA. Since then the brand has been doing a brisk business selling its five basketball models directly on its website. But the Goldstons said a new phase of operations started this month, when the shoes began retailing.

The running line is driven by the founders’ experience as former University of Southern California basketball and football players who now run regularly as part of their fitness routines.

“We’re both athletic, and our goal with APL was to create an athletic brand, not just a basketball brand,” Ryan Goldston said. “We wanted to create products for people who are running, who are athletes and who go to the gym and will do squats and then get on the treadmill, but the shoes should also work for people who are running 40 to 50 miles a week.”

The three-style running line includes the $120 Joyride and $140 knitted-upper TechLoom Pro, both of which feature the brand’s new Propelium EVA blend in the midsole. Because the material boasts better durability than traditional EVA, the Goldstons said they used less rubber on the outsole to reduce the weight.

The third style, the $150 Windchill, uses a running-tuned version of the Load ’n Launch technology. The system of compression springs can add height to your jump or, in this case, provide more push-off, the founders said.

In fact, Adam Goldston recalled that after wearing the Windchills in training, he cut down his mile time to five minutes from 6:45, though individual results may vary.

“No way we’re making a guarantee that anyone can cut 1:45 off their mile,” he said. “But I’ve been able to see an increase [in speed], and [wear testers] are definitely getting increases, so we’re excited to enter the market and make an impact during the run.”

The launch marks APL’s first foray into the women’s category, with separately lasted styles for that customer.

“The prospect [of the women’s market] is exciting because we haven’t been there before and we’ve got a ton of interest from women,” Adam Goldston said. “Women’s fitness has never been bigger than it is today, and the female athlete is a target to be desired. It’s a new market for us and opens up a humongous category.”

The collection also introduces other avenues of distribution for APL.

The brand is making its first inroads into wholesale with an exclusive launch at Saks Fifth Avenue. The department store will sell all three running styles for men at its locations in Beverly Hills, Calif., and New York, as well as online.

Eric Jennings, VP and fashion director of men’s, home, food and gifts at Saks, said the athletic category has been hot for the luxury retailer. In fact, in February Saks unveiled a section called Sneaks in key markets around the country. The area offers a full range of men’s designer sneakers, from high-tops and slip-ons to performance athletic styles, collaborations and limited-edition, exclusive packages.

“The sneaker business is on fire, and we have grown that category at Saks throughout the country, and it’s phenomenal,” Jennings said, noting that APL’s aesthetics, when combined with its performance focus, made the label an attractive addition to the mix.

“Our position has been designer and fashion sneakers — that’s the bulk of the assortment,” Jennings said. “[APL] was an active sort of sneaker that we didn’t have, but it has a fashion component that fits well with the designer brands we carry. They’ve got color, fashion sensibility. It’s very graphic and looks like a designer sneaker, but with this patented technology.”

The shoes also will be available on APL’s website, which has been the exclusive outlet for the basketball product.

“We like the idea of being able to tell the story in the right way,” Adam Goldston said. “We’re focused on doing what we’re doing through our site and Saks.”

The Goldstons anticipate that total brand revenues could increase two to three times during the next 12 months, in large part due to the running launch and that collection’s potential growth.

Going forward, the brothers said they aim to broaden their women’s business, and the brand is set to debut men’s and women’s running apparel later this summer. But they noted training also could be a natural fit in the future.

“The framework for us is we never go into a market unless we feel we can change that market,” Adam Goldston said. “We have six patents and those have a ton of carryover, and Ryan and I train every day. So our next move — not an immediate move — would be training.”

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