Adidas to shift some production from Asia in quest for speed

Thu Mar 26, 2015 10:47am EDT
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By Emma Thomasson

HERZOGENAURACH, Germany (Reuters) - Adidas (ADSGn.DE: Quote) plans to speed up production and allow shoppers to customize more shoes and clothes, aiming to accelerate sales and profit growth over the next five years.

The German sportswear firm, which has been losing ground for years to fast-growing rival Nike (NKE.N: Quote), said it was testing automated production units that would allow it to shift manufacturing from Asia closer to consumers.

"We will bring production back to where the main markets are," said Chief Executive Herbert Hainer, adding the current six weeks it took to ship from Asia to Europe was too long. "Robots can be everywhere."

Manufacturing closer to consumers should allow it to react more quickly to fast changing trends -- like floral prints this spring -- as it seeks to challenge market leader Nike as well as fashion retailers like H&M (HMb.ST: Quote), which are already much more responsive and are moving into sportswear.

Adidas said it would extend innovations pioneered by its NEO teen fashion brand which gets new products into store in 45 days, compared with a sports industry standard of 12-18 months.

Global brand chief Eric Liedtke, seen as the strongest internal candidate to succeed under-pressure Hainer, said Adidas was seeking to shake up the market in the same way that Nike did when it moved production to Asia in the 1980s.

Liedtke, a former American football player, said the German company's priorities included reversing falling sales in North America, retaining its global leadership in soccer, doubling sales in running and doing more to appeal to female consumers.

Nike has been taking market share from Adidas and is seen as doing a better job at setting trends.   Continued...

The Adidas logo is pictured in a pop-up store in Berlin December 2, 2014.  REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke