Puma Sales Roar Back With China Growth

    With China driving its Asia growth, Puma focused on strengthening regional relevance, from expanding celebrity partnerships to leveraging Singles’ Day.
    With China driving its Asia growth, Puma focused on strengthening regional relevance in 2020, from expanding celebrity partnerships to leveraging Singles’ Day. Photo: Courtesy of Puma
      Published   in Finance

    After a pandemic-served beatdown last year, Puma has clawed its way to recovery.

    On February 24, the German sportswear giant reported that sales jumped 9 percent to 1.52 billion euros in the last three months of 2020 — a promising upswing from the 55-percent plummet in its second quarter. Overall, sales were down 1.4 percent to 5.23 billion euros for the financial year.

    This rebound was led by strong performance in the Asia Pacific, which surged 11.8 percent in the fourth quarter to 480.5 million euros, driven by mainland China. But the country alone was not enough to stop the region’s full-year sales from falling 3.2 percent compared to 2019 levels, down to 1.48 billion euros.

    Given the importance of these global markets, Puma doubled down on establishing local relevance, particularly through sports, influencers, and communication platforms. This was not only reflected in the brand’s return to basketball and collaboration with grammy-winning artist J. Cole, but also its increasing partnerships with popular Chinese talents, including actors Yang Yang, Li Xian, and Liu Haoran as well as supermodel Liu Wen.

    The brand further grew its China footprint by leveraging the country’s biggest shopping holiday, Singles’ Day, logging 2.8 million orders and 80 million euros in revenue over the week. And already, Puma is making good on its goal to design more products specific to the market, partnering with Hong Kong-based artist Michael Lau, “The Godfather of Toy Figures,” to ring in the new year.

    That said, all Puma products did well in the fourth quarter, with apparel growing 15.7 percent, accessories up 7.3 percent, and footwear increasing 3.8 percent.

    “We clearly see a running boom in the whole world,” CEO Bjorn Gulden told journalists, adding that orders for 2021 are up almost 30 percent compared to last year, especially for running products.

    This tracks with Puma’s Q3 results, which showed a strong demand for performance-related products, especially for individual sports like running or hiking. With the healthy living trend expected to persist after the pandemic, the sporting goods sector is positioned to weather the crisis better than most.

    But Puma isn’t out of the storm just yet. With almost half of its retail stores in Europe still closed and other markets operating under significant restrictions, the apparel maker is bracing for impact in the first half of 2021. However, the brand is also confident that its quick Q4 recovery and strong order book — along with global efforts to combat the virus — will lead to a moderate sales bump later this year.

    “I am convinced that 2021 will be a better year for us than 2020,” Gulden said. Knock on wood.

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