Working closely with many important key accounts in various countries, Rockport continues to expand in Europe, broadening its footprint from the men's segment into the much larger women's segment, where the brand sees its biggest potential. From 80-20 a couple of years ago, the ratio between the sale of men's and women's styles in its collection is shifting to 60-40, and the management wants to take it further, in line with general market trends. It is already higher in the numerous new stores that Rockport is setting up all over Europe.
The metropolitan professional remains Rockport's target customer. Rockport has been traditionally a men's brand, but the management now defines its target group as encompassing both men and women who are on the move and want to look and feel great. As in the U.S., Rockport is making ample use also in Europe of its newest female testimonial, Erin Wasson, who is a top fashion model, an actress and an entrepreneur. She is part of a “market activation plan” that the brand is conducting with some of the key accounts that have started to add women's styles to their offerings of Rockport men's shoes this season, such as El Corte Inglés in Spain, John Lewis in the U.K. and Nilson Group in Sweden.
Rockport still has strong relations with other major shoe retailers and department stores such as Görtz in Germany, Rizzo in the Nordic countries, Tascon in Spain, and Selfridges, Shoe Studio and JD Williams in the U.K. First introduced at Selfridges' flagship store on London's South Molton Street one year ago, the brand now has a presence in all four of its department stores. Zalando began to carry Rockport on its website for its current selling season. Another big new customer in Germany is Breuninger, which will feature Rockport, starting with its men's line, in a new expanded 2,000-square-meter shoe floor at its flagship department store in Stuttgart next autumn, as well as at other locations.
At the same time, like other brands of its parent company, the Adidas Group, Rockport is rolling out a major network of directly operated and franchised single-brand stores, with a corporate goal that one-fifth of the brand's revenues should come from full-price single-brand stores by 2014 on a global basis. Last year, the Rockport store network doubled in size, with a particularly strong focus on Russia, China and South Korea. The door count grew to more than 160 units around the world.
Rockport expects to further grow its retail presence also in EMEA within the next years. It is even opening stores in Portugal, although it is the dominant brand of brown shoes at the wholesale level. It inaugurated its first Portuguese store in the big Colombo shopping mall of Lisbon last December. The store has been performing so well that Rockport has decided to add another two in the country this year.
In the U.K., also a strong market for the brand, Rockport plans to set up one or two more shops in the next year in the wake of its first opening in London last summer. Rockport also opened its first Swedish store in Stockholm in April 2011, and it plans to follow up with another one in a new shopping center due to go live in May 2013.
A total of 25 to 30 Rockport stores are set to open this year – and between 30 and 50 more in 2013 – within the territory covered by Rockport EMEA. This new entity has been managed since April 2011 as a full-fledged business unit run by Thomas Vorndran, a 10-year veteran of the Adidas Group. He and his growing team work out of the group's headquarters in Herzogenaurach.
The deployment of new Rockport stores will be strongest in Russia and the Middle East. Like the Adidas brand, Rockport has no wholesale distribution in Russia, where the group's brand of brown shoes ended up last year with 45 single-brand stores, 18 more than at the end of 2010. An additional 25 doors are in the pipeline there – with strong support from Adidas' business development team in the country – to form a nationwide chain of 70 Rockport stores by the end of 2013. Working with local distributors, Rockport also has about four stores in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and four in Israel. The total door count in the Middle East is set to grow to about 25 units in the short term.
To do the best possible job in mono-brand retailing, the Adidas Group has named Mike Jäggle as head of retail for Rockport EMEA. Jäggle had been previously in charge of marketing activation for the Adidas brand in Western Europe. The management team around Vorndran has continued to expand. Rockport had previously hired a head of sales for Europe, James Radford; a new marketing manager for Europe, Alexandra Bauer, took office in Herzogenaurach last January. She had previously been in charge of global trade marketing at the brand's head office in the U.S.
Of course, the Adidas Group, which also owns Reebok, is giving a lot of support to Rockport through its strong product development and sourcing operations. With their engineered comfort features and their lightness, Rockport shoes benefit from some of Adidas' proprietary cushioning technologies and others. In the past year, Rockport sourced a total of about 9 million pairs of shoes, mostly from China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia.
Rockport wants to combine function and fashion. Trying to project a more contemporary image, it has been introducing younger and more stylish models in its collection, and the process will go on for the spring/summer 2013 season. The line will be presented next July at the Bread & Butter show in Berlin, where the brand will return after an absence of five years.
Europe is one of the regions where sales increased overall within the last few years. It already has a relatively strong position in France, where the brand has had a new country manager since last year, Thierry Roger. Growth is expected in Switzerland and North Africa, where the brand has signed up new distributors. Turkey and various countries in Eastern Europe such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are still white spots for Rockport.
Company officials decline to provide specific figures about the European turnover of Rockport. The Adidas Group says the brand generated global sales of $261 million in 2011, an increase of only 3 percent from $252 million in 2010. On a currency-neutral basis, Rockport's sales rose by 6 percent last year and by 7 percent in the first quarter of 2012. About half of the total turnover was still in the U.S., where Rockport has its global headquarters.
No major changes in strategy are expected for Rockport after Tobias Reiss-Schmitt becomes the new chief executive of the brand next July, as he has been an integral part of the management team since 2008, with responsibility lately for global retail and the Americas. The current chief executive of Rockport, Michael Rupp, is leaving the group next month to run Jack Wolfskin, the leading German brand of outdoor products.