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Business

Puma Wants to Focus off the Playing Field

Why quit when you're ahead? After seeing its sales rocket in the past year following its emphasis on sports fashion, Puma said this week it plans more of the same in the future.

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Puma's throwback style has moved it closer to Adidas in world rankings

With Puma's jump from the feet of athletes into hip hop videos and musical stages complete, the German sportswear company laid out its plan for the future: more of the same.

Acknowledging that the sports-lifestyle segment helped the 54-year-old company achieve unprecedented sales and growth in the past year, CEO Jochen Zeitz said Puma was redoubling its efforts in "sportslifestyle."

"Our goal is to make our customers hungry for more Puma products," he told reporters at the announcement in Rotterdam late this week.

Last years figures indicate they have been hungry at an unprecedented rate. Puma's sales grew more than 50 percent in 2001. Their worldwide sales eclipsed 1 billion euro for the first time in history. The figures, though still ranking them far behind market leaders Nike, followed by Adidas, have nevertheless made them a force to reckon with.

Company executives and branch analysts give a large portion of the credit to Puma's lifestyle segment, which features remakes of classic Puma shoes and workout wear. Not wanting to tinker too much with the formula, Puma is unabashed in its plan for the future, dubbed Phase III.

"PUMA's new mission will be to become the most desirable sportslifestyle brand in the world," according to a company statement.

Numbers to back up the plan

The company, which shares the town of Herzogenaurach, Bavaria with Adidas' headquarters has lofty numerical aims to match that confidence.

Puma said it views its brand potential at 2 billion euro and expects sales to grow 48 percent for the full-year 2002, just 4 percent less than this year, according to the Phase III blueprint.

The number of so-called "concept stores" in which Puma sells its lifestyle wear is set to increase as well. Puma wants to add two Frankfurt-area stores to already existing outlets in Tokyo, Paris, New York City, Milan and Rome.

"Roaring lion" plans to "sting like a bee"

The goal is necessarily to be the largest sportswear company out there, just the "most desireable," said Zeitz, the Puma wunderkind who took over the keys to the executive's suite as a 29-year-old in 1993. Borrowing from boxing legend Muhammed Ali, Zeitz said the company wants to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."

Continuing with the animal metaphor, Zeitz gloated a bit on his company' s success.

"Puma," he said. "Has turned from a sleeping cat into a roaring lion."

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