Under Armour enters running shoe market

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore sports apparel company Under Armour officially confirmed yesterday that it will begin selling a running shoe during the first half of next year.

The company had said this month that it had developed prototypes for a running shoe and a basketball shoe, but gave no details about launch plans.

Kevin A. Plank, Under Armour Inc. president and chief executive officer, made the announcement during its first Investor Day, a meeting with institutional investors and analysts who cover the company.

"The next category Under Armour will attack is running," Plank told the audience of about 90 people who met at M&T; Bank Stadium.

The running shoe will feature six styles, two for trail running and four for road running. Other styles will be offered for people who pronate, or put more weight on the inside of their feet and ankles, as well as those who are more stable runners. The shoe will cost $90 to $100.

This will be Under Armour's second foray into noncleated shoes, or those that can be worn off the playing field. The company launched a cross trainer this month.

Plank had said the performance of the cross trainer would determine how fast and aggressively the company would push into other shoe categories.

The company sees shoes as a key component in its goal to become as prominent as larger competitors, such as Nike and Reebok.

Plank said yesterday that he expects athletic shoes to eventually surpass apparel sales.

The cross trainer, which hit stores May 3, sold about 40 percent of its initial stock, according to SportsOneSource, a research and data company that tracks athletic shoe sales.

"It did well," said Matt Powell, an analyst with SportsOneSource. "It exceeded expectations."

When it launched the cross trainer, Under Armour was criticized by analysts because it increased marketing at the expense of earnings, including millions spent on a Super Bowl commercial, in the first half of the year. Plank assured analysts and investors there would be no need to worry about that next year.

"And no, we don't intend to run a Super Bowl ad for this one," Plank said. "I promise."

One analyst questioned how Under Armour was going to win over customers who were loyal to other brands.

Running shoes are the second-largest category of athletic shoes, with $4 billion in sales, according to SportsOneSource.

Plank said they would target a consumer who doesn't necessarily have an allegiance to a particular brand. He also said they would target athletes who run as part of their training. He noted that running apparel is one of the company's best-performing categories and that they would promote the shoe's technology.

"Our goal is not for people to trade one shoe for another," Plank said. "We believe we have a better shoe."


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