The sporting-goods maker aims to climb Alpine heights with a new performance-sports line
by Holger Elfes
(Bloomberg) — Adidas has long been one of the world's premier brands in fashion sport shoes. Now the German sporting-goods company plans to begin selling high-end mountaineering jackets next year, muscling in on North Face's turf as outdoor gear grows faster than traditional sporting goods. Adidas is setting a lofty goal for itself, too. It wants to become a leading brand for so-called performance-sports gear by 2015, says Rolf Reinschmidt, head of the global outdoor division. Sales of outdoor gear will rise about 0.7% in Europe this year, outperforming the declining sporting-goods market, according to industry body European Outdoor Group. The fragmented nature of the market makes it attractive for adidas. North Face owner VF leads the $59 billion industry with outdoor-sports sales of $2.74 billion, the association says. "Adidas is still far behind the specialist labels, but it's coming up," says Andreas Bartmann, chief executive of Globetrotter, Europe's largest outdoor-products retailer. Globetrotter, in Hamburg, Germany, will start selling adidas hiking boots next year. Revenue Is Up
The new 325-gram Terrex Feather Jacket is designed to protect trekkers at heights of up to 19,685 feet. Like all adidas performance sports gear, the $595 product will initially be available only in Germany and neighboring Austria and Switzerland, along with Russia, China, and Korea. From 2012, the entire line will be available globally. The world's second-largest sporting-goods maker doesn't provide sales figures for its outdoor unit, saying only that the division's revenue rose in the first nine months of 2009 while overall sales fell 3.7%. VF, which is in Greensboro, N.C., reported that North Face's third-quarter revenue increased 10% at constant currency rates, while sales of its Vans label climbed 4% on the same basis. Growth in the industry isn't universal. Columbia Sportswear said in October that third-quarter sales fell 4%, to $434.5 million, and forecast a decline for the year of 8% to 9%. The Portland (Ore.) company had previously predicted a "low-double-digit" drop in annual revenue. Solo Ascent
Reinschmidt has led adidas' outdoor sports unit since 2007 and has a team of 40 developing high-tech apparel and boots. In Europe, adidas increased its spending on marketing this year by running TV commercials with Alexander and Thomas Huber, brothers who are known for extreme Alpine climbing. The sporting-goods maker also started sponsoring Reinhold Messner, who made the first solo ascent of Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer has said his company would build its outdoor-sports division using its own brand name and without resorting to acquisitions. "Adidas is doing a seriously good job as the company tries to take advantage of the increasing interest for outdoor gear," says Mark Held, secretary general of European Outdoor Group. He expects the industry's growth to continue into next year. "Even in hard times, people continue buying outdoor gear to escape for a while from the seriousness of life." To contact the reporter on this story: Holger Elfes in Dusseldorf at email@example.com.