New shoe, new year.
There's no denying that Under Armour Inc. (UAA) has had some rough going. Now, the Baltimore-based sports apparel brand could be on the rebound as discounting on its products has dropped and its new running shoe, the HOVR Phantom, has garnered the thumbs-up from shoppers and retailers.
"Better product reception, fewer promotions and a stronger consumer backdrop are helping drive rising demand for Under Armour," Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a Friday, Feb. 9 note.
The new HOVR Phantom, released globally on Feb. 1, is already selling out at certain stores, according to Konik's research. "With the shoe's introduction last weekend, sales associates noted that it is performing fantastically." In fact, a survey of 200 retailers showed that Under Armour accounted for 2% of all the mentions of a "best seller," up from zero in January.
"While this is a small number, the shoe was only recently introduced, and we expect the positive momentum surrounding the shoe to get even better," according to the note.
On top of its flashy new shoe, Under Armour has seen discounts dip to 23% in February from 70% in November. Although markdowns may drive the volume of sales, it puts pressure on margins, so retailers and brands alike avoid the practice whenever possible.
The sneaker space for Nike Inc. (NKE) also appears rosy this month, Konik's report suggests. The sneaker king is gaining back share from Adidas AG (ADS) in the running category, with 41 items in Jefferies' surveyed Top 60 list in February, compared to 26 in November. The Air VaporMax is gaining momentum, Konik observed. In addition, Nike has introduced a new running shoe this year: the Epic React, which goes on sale Feb. 22.
Adidas, on the other hand, isn't faring well. While the German sports brand had 34 items in the Top 60 list in November, they are now down to 18. It's had to ramp up discounting internationally, as indicated by the number of Adidas items available for sale on the European Footlocker Inc. (FL) website.
"The depth of discount remains close to historical levels for Nike, but Adidas' depth of discount has picked up materially the past two months," Konik wrote.
For a few months last year, Adidas outperformed Nike in traffic, thanks to the sustained strength of its Stan Smiths and Superstars. The triumph was short-lived, though: Foot Locker's second-quarter earnings report showed that while Stan Smiths and Superstars slowed in sales, Nike's Jordan Retros and Air Force 1's rebounded to the top.
Meanwhile, in recent years, Under Armour had slipped to the sidelines as sales plummeted. Since September of 2015, its shares fell by more than 74%. In July, the company highlighted turnaround efforts, including innovation and cuts in the workforce.
"While UAA still has hurdles ahead, we are pleased to be seeing green shoots in running," Konik wrote on Feb. 4. Under Armour is up nearly 4% before 3 p.m. ET, trading at $13.66.