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Adidas-Reebok Deal Points to Sportswear Catalog Trend

Yesterday's news that Adidas-Salomon AG will acquire Reebok International Ltd. in a deal worth $3.8 billion is just the latest sign that sports labels are looking for growth beyond sneakers. Increasingly, catalogs are one of the strategies they are relying on for their ability to offer a broad selection of products to a specific consumer.

The deal bolsters the presence of Adidas, Herzogenaurach, Germany, in the United States by giving it access to Canton, MA-based Reebok's strong athletic gear and women's wear businesses. With Reebok, Adidas' North American sales will more than double to $3.9 billion annually. The acquisition gives Adidas 20 percent of the U.S. market as it chases No. 1 Nike.

“Together, we will expand our geographic reach, particularly in North America, and create a footwear, apparel and hardware offering that addresses a broader spectrum of consumers and demographics,” Adidas-Salomon chairman/CEO Herbert Hainer said in a statement.

The companies expect the transaction to close in the first half of 2006.

In recent years, Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma have signed deals with fashion designers, musicians and high-profile athletes to expand their lines into lifestyle fashion, some with more success than others. Direct marketing vehicles such as brand-specific catalogs and e-commerce sites are viewed as instrumental by marketers as they make this transition.

“The catalog marketplace for sportswear lately has been very hot,” said James Treis, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Arandell Corp. The catalog printing company based outside Milwaukee counts Nike among its clients. Last fall, Nike launched Nike Women, a catalog with a strong apparel orientation.

Nike, Footlocker division Eastbay and Finish Line are a few brands that have done well in the catalog arena, Treis said. As a result, “it is really only a matter of time” before some of the other sports brands follow suit. DM News reported this spring that Adidas is working on its own apparel-oriented catalog for next year.

The appeal of catalogs is that they “allow [brands] to control their message to the consumer,” Treis said. Coupling this strategy with the capability of database marketing to target a specific consumer “is very beneficial to these people.”

There are other signs that sports labels aim to take more control of how their brands are put in front of consumers. In May, Adidas opened its largest Sport Performance store in New York, where the recently introduced Adidas by Stella McCartney line is located near the entrance to the two-story location. The store's offerings lean heavily toward apparel and include men's, women's and children's clothing in addition to footwear.

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