How Adidas Is Gaining Momentum in the Outdoor Market

Since entering the marketplace in fall ’11, the Adidas Outdoor brand has steadily grown and taken retail shelf space from its traditional counterparts. In 2016, for instance, the outdoor label saw a 25 percent rise in sales.

And with the category continuing to shift toward athletic styling, the brand is well positioned to gain even more market share.

“If [Adidas] takes lessons learned in athletic and applies that thinking to the boot category and reinvents it, the outdoor market is absolutely ripe for a fresh idea,” said Matt Powell, global sports industry analyst for The NPD Group Inc.

He added that the label has a particular advantage in the trail running segment. “Most brands in trail running are boot brands that are trying to make an athletic-esque shoe,” said Powell. “Adidas can come at it from the other side. They can take fashion cues from athletic and apply that to trail run.”

To initially build its reputation, Adidas Outdoor focused on becoming a staple in specialty outdoor stores and sporting goods shops. But for 2017, the brand (which is distributed in the U.S. by Los Angeles-based Agron Inc.) will branch out.

“We’re looking at other distribution channels, and specialty running is one,” said Greg Thomsen, the brand’s U.S. managing director. “We weren’t avoiding them, but we weren’t marketing to that trade channel.”

The focus on specialty running coincides with a bigger push in trail running product for Adidas Outdoor. That footwear category has been the label’s best performer recently, with sales up 67 percent year-over-year, according to Thomsen.

Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, Colo. — one of the brand’s newest retail accounts — brought in the label because of its refreshing approach to innovation and product development.

“We’re excited to see people willing to take chances and introduce new concepts,” said Ute Mountaineer co-owner Bob Wade. “So much of what we see is just slightly different iterations of the same thing. They’ve been willing to go a little crazy and get outside of the box.”

One style that initially intrigued Wade was the Terrex X-King, an aggressive trail runner boasting a Continental mountain bike rubber outsole and speed-laced construction. It was introduced in spring ’16 and has become a top seller for Adidas Outdoor.

New trail running styles for fall ’17 include two Terrex Agravic iterations — one with Gore-Tex and one without.

In addition to product releases, Adidas Outdoor is improving its trail position by deepening its involvement in long-distance races.

In 2016, it had a presence at two Colorado-based running events: the Aspen Backcountry Marathon & Half-Marathon (which it will again sponsor in 2017) and the Grand Traverse Mountain Run & Bike. Adidas Outdoor plans to add at least two more races to the schedule this year, according to Thomsen.

Aside from an improved trail running selection, the brand will continue to offer a vast footwear assortment, which includes hiking boots, approach shoes, insulated winter boots and water-sport looks. And in an ironic departure from its name, it will further develop its connections to the indoor climbing community: Adidas Outdoor works with roughly 200 climbing gyms nationwide and aims to grow to 300 in 2017.

With a high level of competition in the U.S. outdoor market, Thomsen acknowledged there are challenges. But he affirmed Adidas’ dedication to the category.

“Everybody sees outdoor as an opportunity — fashion companies and others not normally associated with outdoor,” Thomsen said. “We see it as a long-term project. We’re working with athletes and people actually benefiting from the product. It’s less of a trend and more of a long-term commitment to the sport.”

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