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Puma Sees Improving Sell-Through With Its Successful Trifecta of Female Ambassadors

Give it up to Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and Kylie Jenner.
Rihanna at her spring 2017 Fenty Puma runway show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Rihanna at her spring 2017 Fenty Puma runway show in Paris. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

It's been a good year so far for Puma. The German sportswear brand reported on Thursday that over the past nine months, it as seen a 10.2 percent increase in revenue across all regions — especially in Europe, which saw double-digit growth — and product categories. Among them, footwear improved by 11 percent while apparel contributed the highest growth rate, up 12 percent to €966.6 million, or about $1.05 billion, in sales. (Gross profit margins, however, experienced a slight decrease due to the strong U.S. dollar: 46.1 percent compared to the first nine months of last year with 46.4 percent.)

In the company's third quarter specifically, sales jumped by 8.3 percent to €990.2 million (about $1.1 billion) driven, as usual, by footwear, where sales rose 12.3 percent. Bjørn Gulden, Chief Executive Officer of PUMA SE, thanks Usain Bolt's "unbelievable performance," which won him three gold medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics in August. The company noted that, as usual, it saw success with Rihanna's Fenty line.

Speaking of which, Gulden also points out that the brand has hit its stride with its prosperous trifecta of female ambassadors, including Rihanna, Kylie Jenner and Cara Delevingne. This year, Rihanna took her creative director role to the next level with a full ready-to-wear line, along with more footwear styles. The first collection debuted during New York Fashion Week in February and dropped in stores this fall, followed by a second runway show in Paris in September. The company didn't specifically address the retail response to the Fenty ready-to-wear line, but did say that women's was a key driver in the growth of apparel, which saw a 10.3 percent sales jump in the quarter.

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With RiRi's success, Puma decided to focus more on women, taking on Kylie Jenner earlier this year (another profitable move), and in September, a very ripped Cara Delevingne unveiled her "Do You" women's campaign with the activewear brand.

The new collections and investment in marketing have resulted in stronger sell-through at retail. "More consumers are buying our new products at full price and retailers are therefore more satisfied with us," said Gulden. "It is now our job to use this momentum to get more of the right Puma products on their shelves." Perhaps applying the same celebrity-driven marketing strategy on the men's side will help. In September, Puma announced its latest famous hire: The Weeknd's Abel Tesfaye as creative collaborator and ambassador.

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