When Puma was planning last year’s return to the ultracompetitive running category, it also discovered another opportunity.
“We were seeing trends around consumers getting outdoors as a way of exercising, socially distancing, connecting with nature. We saw a lot of people running in a trail environment,” said Erin Longin, GM of the run/train business unit at Puma.
She noted the brand began working on an outdoor range in late 2020 as an extension of its run offering. “Our goal is to capture that running consumer, but we want to offer them product for all their needs,” said Longin.
Dubbed Seasons, the new outdoor collection includes apparel with tech solutions for all kinds of weather (Rain Cell and Storm Cell, for example), as well as two debut footwear styles: Fast Trac Nitro, a faster and lighter trail running option; and the Voyage Nitro, a more robust, supportive and durable look, which Longin described as its max cushioning solution. Puma will start to release selections from the collection in October, with the footwear arriving later in the fall.
Initially, Seasons will be distributed through Puma’s own stores and e-commerce site. “We want to tell this story to consumers directly because it is something very new to Puma,” Longin said. However, the brand also aims to work with select wholesale partners for the launch, specifically in the specialty run channel, and Longin conversations are also underway with specialty outdoor retailers to carry Seasons in 2023.
The trail shoes will feature similar technologies found in the road range, such as Nitro Foam, and the Puma Grip outsoles have been specially engineered for the trail environment.
Todd Falker, Puma’s senior product line manager for running, acknowledged the brand is up against stiff competition in that category. “When you walk into any running shoe store, there’s a wall full of shoes,” he said. “Fit, function, performance and those key features — like using Nitro in every model — is why somebody should give Puma a shot.”
In terms of aesthetics, Longin said Puma opted for a timeless design rather than a loud and bold look, although the brand still kept all of the products very modern-looking.
Looking ahead to spring ’23, Puma will expand Seasons to include a walk-hike silhouette, the Explore Nitro. For the apparel, it is focused on solutions for heat and rain during the warmer seasons, utilizing cooling fabrics that are both trail running-focused and geared toward versatile walk-hike activities.
Matt Powell, VP and senior sports industry adviser at The NPD Group, said that while trail running overall is not a big sales driver, the category should remain robust. “The consumer is still very concerned about healthy living, staying fit, social distancing and feels safer outside,” he said. “[So] hiking, walking, running are all categories we think are going to outperform the market in ’22 and beyond.”