Chinese Athletic Brand Coming to America

CHICAGO — For the 361 Degrees brand, the U.S. market presents major opportunity.

The 11-year-old Jianjing, China-based company — which is well-known in its home country —has enlisted a number of industry veterans for its soft launch for holiday ’14 in North America. “The brand has a long-term vision of being a major international [player], and to do that, it’s important to have a successful launch in the U.S.,” said Jim Monahan, president of 361 Degrees USA. “We’ve put together a team that understands the local market and the needs of retailers, and has a good feel for the consumer here.”

Monahan, the former VP of footwear for Irvine, Calif.-based Asics America, joined the brand in June, when the company established its North American headquarters in the same city. One of the attractions was the presence of former Asics America president and COO Rich Bourne, who is an adviser to the label, Monahan said. The stateside team also includes Asics vets Pat Perry, who will direct product, and Kristen Hart, head of demand planning.

Former American Sporting Goods marketing manager Ed Goldman will handle marketing for 361 Degrees, and the first efforts kick off later this month. In advance of the company’s Nov. 1 launch, outdoor ads will go up in Cleveland. They will feature Cavaliers player Kevin Love, who endorses the brand in China and will be a face of the brand in the U.S. The billboards will spotlight two key performance styles and will be supported by digital and traditional media.

The running, training and lifestyle line will feature close to 160 styles for men and women (kids’ is slated for fall ’15, as is basketball) in both the performance and lifestyle categories, Monahan said. Prices will range from $55 to $120 for the brand’s performance product, which features a proprietary multiple-density midsole. Sales are targeted to sporting goods, independents and family footwear accounts, and marketing focused on POS and grassroots events is planned.

“We’re spending a lot of time on social media as well as on in-store representation,” Monahan said. “It’s vital we assist our retail partners in driving the traffic in, and when that traffic does come in the door, presenting our story. We’re entering one of the most sophisticated markets in the world, and expectations are extremely high.”

The American segment is part of the separately operated 361 Degrees Overseas Division run by GM Otto Lin; the 361 Degrees Group is a publicly traded company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

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