How Wolverine’s Merrell and Saucony Brands Are Fueling Growth in China

Wolverine World Wide Inc. is taking a major step forward in Asia — expanding its international presence through its Merrell and Saucony brands.

The Rockford, Mich.-based company announced today that it has entered into a joint venture agreement with Chinese sportswear retailer Xtep International Holdings Ltd. As part of the strategic investment, the partnership will involve growing Merrell and Saucony products in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

“We have seen incredible sportswear growth in these markets, and our brands are now poised to excel as we engage Xtep’s significant retail presence and regional expertise to tap into the booming running and outdoor sectors,” said Wolverine president, chairman and CEO Blake Krueger.

Merrell and Saucony will also be introducing new stores in the region, with the majority set to open in shopping malls across major metropolitan cities in China as well as in neighboring Hong Kong and Macau.

“We look forward to working shoulder-to-shoulder with [Wolverine] to seize the numerous business opportunities we see in these key Asian markets,” said Xtep chairman and CEO Ding Shui Po. “Leveraging the combined resources and strengths of both Xtep and Wolverine, we expect the joint venture will reach a large group of sophisticated customers.”

Upon releasing its fourth-quarter earnings report, Wolverine — parent company to Keds, Sperry, Hush Puppies and more — noted that it had invested $50 million in growth initiatives over the past year. The footwear company saw revenues climb 0.2 percent to $579.6 million during the period, falling short of Wall Street’s estimate of $581.91 million.

CEO and president Blake Krueger was upbeat on the company’s prospects. “This was the highest quarterly revenue growth of the year, driven by our two largest brands, Merrell and Sperry,” the executive said, referring to the former’s solid sales run and the latter’s continued recovery.

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