New Puma CEO seeks to return company to sporting roots

Fri Nov 8, 2013 8:57am EST
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By Victoria Bryan

HERZOGENAURACH, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's Puma (PUMG.DE: Quote) will return to its sporting roots to restore growth to the struggling brand whose profits crashed 70 percent last year, the group's new chief executive said.

Puma ranks a distant third in the sports apparel industry behind Nike (NKE.N: Quote) and Adidas (ADSGn.DE: Quote) and CEO Bjoern Gulden's turnaround plan breaks with the company's efforts over two decades under former chief Jochen Zeitz to strike a chord with fashion-led consumers.

"We are a sports company, not a sports lifestyle company," Bjoern Gulden told journalists, speaking in public for the first time since taking the helm in July.

Gulden wants Puma, which is 84 percent owned by French luxury group Kering (PRTP.PA: Quote), to go back to its roots in football and athletics, sports he thinks it has neglected.

Puma has been overtaken in the running market by rivals Nike, Adidas and a host of smaller specialists like Asics (7936.T: Quote), Brooks, Saucony and Mizuno, despite its sponsorship of sprinter Usain Bolt.

"They had all the resources to build on the brand recognition, the Bolt endorsement. They could have become a leader in this category and they've failed to do it," Euromonitor analyst Magdalena Kondej said.

On Friday, Puma warned 2013 net profit will fall far below 2012's 70 million euros ($94 million), as it books 130 million euros of costs to close a development center in Vietnam and bring product staff from London to group headquarters in the small German town of Herzogenaurach.

The group, which also said third-quarter operating earnings before special items fell 19 percent to 80 million euros, had previously expected a rise in 2013 net earnings.   Continued...

Flages wave over the Puma factory outlet store in Herzogenaurach near Nuremberg April 10, 2007. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (GERMANY) - RTR1OHKA