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CELEBRITY LICENSING

Rihanna Shows Strength for Puma, Foot Locker

By Marcy Magiera

In the competitive world of licensed athletic gear, pop singer and fashion icon Rihanna is riding the demand for athleisure apparel to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest athletes in the NBA.

Athletic retailer Foot Locker on Friday posted its highest quarterly net income ($191 million, up 3.8%) and earnings per share ($1.39) in the company’s history, but investors were surprised when comparable store sales increases of 2.9% failed to meet analysts’ expectations of 4%, a fact that execs blamed on mid-single-digit declines in the of signature basketball shoes. What that means: Nike’s big LeBron James and Kevin Durant brands failed to sell.

What did perform well for Foot Locker was women’s fashion, led by the classic Stan Smith sneaker from Adidas and Rihanna’s shoes and apparel from Puma.

Puma’s full-year 2015 sales increased 14% and its first quarter 2016 sales climbed 3.7%, in part because of its affiliation with Rihanna. “One highlight for Puma in the first quarter was the Fenty Puma by Rihanna fashion show at New York Fashion Week in February. A series of style for the female consumer have been launched successfully, both in collaboration with Rihanna as well as in our inline collection. Key footwear styles such as Creeper and Fenty trainer sold out within weeks or days,” per Puma’s first quarterly earnings report.

Last week Puma announced that three new styles will be added to the Fenty Puma by Rihanna Creeper collection on May 26, including two premium suede versions of the casual kicks. The company might hope for a little less enthusiastic response than the one that greeted Rihanna’s limited edition collaboration with fashion designer Manolo Blahnik earlier this month: When only 400 pairs were stocked in each of Blahnik’s London, New York and Hong Kong outlets, a dedicated microsite crashed several times as it was overwhelmed by fans trying to place special orders online.

It’s no wonder research firm The NPD Group in January anointed Rihanna the most marketable of all big-name celebrities, based on the singer having more than three times as many strong brand endorsement opportunities as the average big-name celebrity. Her other licensing deals include a dressing table full of scents from Parlux Fragrances.#

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