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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Balance To Launch Girly-Girl Sneaker Line

by Sarah Mahoney, Tuesday, Dec 18, 2007 5:00 AM ET
ADD NEW BALANCE TO THE list of shoe marketers looking to branch out beyond performance shoes: The Boston-based company will launch NB Inside, a women's line of fashion sneakers next fall.

New Balance says its new line is key to its plans to reach $3 billion in sales by 2012. Executives say that over time they hope the new collection, with shoes priced around $125, will account for 25% of company sales.

The new strategy makes plenty of sense. New Balance, which also owns PF Flyers and Dunhams, is a brand best-known for its performance shoes, especially running, walking, and cross-training--all fairly stagnant categories of late. But the fashion category, or women's low-performance category, is tearing it up: NPD Group says that in the 12-month period ending in October, sales of women's low-performance athletic footwear increased 31.4% over the same 12-month period the prior year.

"This is the hottest segment in athletic footwear," says Matt Powell, senior research analyst for The SportsOneSource Group. "Right now, it's the second-largest selling category, behind running shoes." Skechers, with about 30% market share, continues to be the leader, he says, with Puma and Nike also top sellers.

Sales in the category are so strong, in fact, "that we've really broken the paradigm in athletic shoe marketing," he says. "For the last 30 years, it's always been about a sports-specific shoe. Maybe one year it was running shoes, and another year it was basketball. But this year, for the first time, it's not about a specific category." FULL STORY

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