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Adidas is going after Nike where it hurts

Adidas and Nike running shoes on display.
Getty Images
Adidas and Nike running shoes on display.

Adidas' red-hot growth is starting to hit Nike where it hurts.

With Nike having long dominated the running footwear category, Adidas is starting to close the gap with the world's No. 1 athletic brand.

According to a new report by Jefferies analyst Randal Konik, Adidas saw a "massive" increase in the number of men's running shoes listed on Foot Locker's best-seller list in October.

While only two Adidas shoes ranked among the top 60 in September, that number shot to 13 in October. Meanwhile, category-leader Nike saw its penetration dip by six, to 46 units. Under Armour slipped from having one shoe on the list to zero.

"This new data also supports our recent proprietary checks of 200 retailers which detailed a rise of Adidas in running," Konik told investors.

Adidas has been on a tear over the past few months, thanks to buzz around Kanye West's Yeezy Boost and other fashion sneakers. After a series of sales declines in North America, the label's revenue has recently recovered in the region, including a 31 percent lift in the first half. That compares with 24 percent growth at Under Armour and a 3 percent uptick at Nike, Cowen & Co. analyst John Kernan noted.

Kernan on Tuesday raised his estimates for Adidas' second half and fiscal 2017 sales and earnings per share, citing the brand's momentum in North America and opportunity to boost margins.

"As consumer tastes and preferences have shifted over the last year to a more retro and casual aesthetic, Adidas has led the way," he said.

Yet Adidas is also gunning for a larger chunk of the running business, where revenue shot 30 percent higher in the second quarter. On a call detailing those results, CEO Herbert Hainer told investors that the company's "commitment to own and drive our positioning in energy running is stronger than ever before."

Still, double-digit growth in the running category made Nike's latest three-month period its "highest revenue quarter ever for our performance running category," management said last month. Adidas generated 8.4 billion euros ($9.3 billion) in footwear sales in its latest fiscal year, compared with Nike's $19.8 billion. Assuming half of each company's footwear sales come from the running category, Kernan pegged Adidas' revenue at 4.2 billion euros, and Nike's at roughly $10 billion.

Jefferies research found that Nike's basketball business extended its lead in October, with the company boasting 53 of the top 60 shoes on Footlocker.com. That was up from 51 in September. Adidas had six shoes on the list, up one from the prior month, while Under Armour's reach fell from four to one.