October 10, 2023

Athletic Footwear - Puma and Fenty's Debut Launch Underwhelms

By Lois Sakany
Puma and Fenty’s 3Q23 Avanti launch faced lackluster demand and the shoe is now selling under retail, and U.S. and Western European buyers said overall demand for the brand has been soft all year.

Puma SE launched its first collaboration with Fenty on Sept. 15; the partnership kicked off with a retro soccer silhouette called Avanti. The partnership with Rihanna’s Fenty brand is a reprise of a partnership that initially debuted in 2015 and ended in 2018. Puma has been touting the return of Fenty since March, when a reunion between the two brands was announced. Betting big on the effort, Puma shuttered some upcoming collaborations and did not renew others.

The Avanti was offered in either black or silver and was sized for men and women ($170), kids ($100) and toddlers ($75). Puma launched the shoe on puma.com, where all adult-sized silhouettes sold out within hours. The shoe was then launched on multiple boutique ecommerce sites, where it is still available in a wide range of sizes. Reflecting lackluster full-priced demand, the shoe is now available on resale site StockX LLC for under retail.

Prior to the launch, U.S. buyers expressed some concern that Puma’s second go round with Fenty would not harness the same level of demand as the first. Several pointed out that the Avanti was not a buzzworthy shoe, in contrast to the 2015 launch of the Puma x Fenty Creeper, which was a new and unique silhouette with a lot of appeal. “Rihanna’s first time with Puma was a different time. The Creeper was innovative but, even then, the brand didn’t work at retailers like [Neiman Marcus Group Inc.’s] Bergdorf Goodman,” a buyer for a retail chain said.

Adding to the headwinds, it appears Rihanna is less out front with the latest endeavor. Just off the birth of her second child, the 35-year-old CEO’s team posted several Puma x Fenty campaign images on social media leading up to the launch, but since Oct. 15 her feed has been quiet.

Indicating some issues with apparel production, Rihanna wore the Avanti sneaker during the campaign but paired it with clothing from another label, possibly because the Puma apparel was not yet available.

Western European and U.S. Promos High
Outside of performance soccer, buyers in the United States and Western Europe were unenthusiastic about Puma’s 3Q23 plan attainment and outlook. During the pandemic, Puma was better stocked than its peers and acted as the go-to substitute when more popular brands like Nike Inc. and Adidas AG were in short supply. As brands began to deliver more reliably this year, retailers pulled back from Puma, a dynamic that has continued to hem in purchases and orders.

Despite a lukewarm outlook among buyers, two French buyers were upbeat, pointing to Fenty as a possible support for Puma in 2023. “Puma has been losing share for the past quarters in lifestyle, but might have plateaued,” said one. “The brand is getting more popular with bloggers, and Rihanna’s shoe shall sell strongly and might make the brand more attractive.”

Conversely, one of the biggest criticisms buyers had about Puma was the depth of promotions the brand was running. “Puma continues to be very promotional, and we’re seeing no change to their silhouettes being hit and miss,” a U.K. buyer said.