Editors' Pick: Originally published Jan. 29.
Being popular comes with its rewards.
With its brand on fire globally, helped by the rising star power of its sponsored athletes such as Stephen Curry, Jordan Spieth and Cam Newton, Under Armour (UA) - Get Report is finding it can charge more and more for its sneakers, particularly since it's also been improving their technology since first venturing into the footwear category in 2008.
"Across all of our footwear, we have more than tripled [the number of] our footwear styles priced over $100," said Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank on a call with analysts Thursday. Stephen Curry's popular basketball sneaker line offers the best example of Under Armour's strengthening pricing power in the footwear business.
The "Curry One" debuted in Feb. 2015 at a price point of $120. In September, the "Curry Two" hit markets at $130. And when the Curry Three hits stores later this year, its price will likely be even higher.
But it hasn't all been about Stephen Curry.
According to Under Armour, it now has more than eight running sneaker styles priced over $100. Further, Under Armour quietly launched a pair of $200 high-tops in concert with boxing legend Muhammad Ali in October. As of Friday, the shoes were sold out on Under Armour's website.
To Under Armour's credit, it has not seen customers balk at the higher prices for its sneakers. Plank made it a point to mention on the call that even as Under Armour increased the number of its sneakers priced over $100 last year, volume "quadrupled."
Under Armour's new smart shoe, pictured above, will cost a cool $150.
Under Armour's footwear sales in the fourth quarter surged 95% year over year to $167 million. For the full year, footwear sales increased 57% to $678 million. Footwear now makes up about 17% of Under Armour's business.
Alongside the strength in footwear, demand for training gear and golf apparel led to fourth quarter earnings coming in at 48 cents a share, besting estimates for 46 cents a share. Total revenue clocked in at $1.17 billion, higher than forecasts for $1.12 billion. Under Armour shares rocketed over 20% on Thursday in response.
And Under Armour has no plans to halt its pursuit of even richer footwear prices.
In 2016, said Plank, Under Armour will double the number of running footwear styles priced over $100, led by its Slingshot and Slingride lines. Said Plank, "We've learned a tremendous amount over the last year of what we can do in signature basketball products, and feel incredibly bullish about our ability to continue to raise average selling prices going forward."
Meantime, products like Under Armour's new Speedform Gemini 2 RE smart shoe will be priced at $150, about $20 higher than a typical Gemini shoe. A new line of Jordan Spieth golf shoes priced at $179 will arrive around the Masters Golf Tournament in April. Pre-orders for the Spieth shoes appears to be strong -- currently, Under Armour's website says its sold out of them.
"I think it makes sense to tap into the premium footwear market as they put more technology, quality and features into the footwear assortment," said Mizuho Securities specialty retail analyst Betty Chen via email. Chen rates Under Armour a buy with a $95 price target.
Charging higher prices for footwear should boost the profitability of the business for Under Armour. Historically, Under Armour has said its profit margins margins on footwear have been well below those of apparel. Under Armour does not break out its profits by line of business.
"We're definitely seeing improvements in the footwear margins in general," said Under Armour CFO Brad Dickerson, adding, "so we do anticipate still a lot of room on the footwear side [to improve margins], a lot of that will come from our ability to sell more at premium price points specifically in categories like running and basketball which are historically, more our higher margin products."