Rihanna is Coming to NYFW, as Puma Struggles to Post Growth

Rihanna announced that she will show a collection during New York Fashion Week in February. Yes, the singer, who was named creative director of Puma a year ago, will reportedly present her Puma by Rihanna collection during NYFW on Friday, February 12. As Vogue noted on Tuesday, “Though the news of the show has yet to be formally announced or confirmed by the singer’s or Puma’s reps, Rihanna has tweeted a link to a Paddle8 auction giving away two front row tickets to the show.” While the singer’s NYFW show will certainly be one of the most highly anticipated and one of the most talked about and tweeted about, will it actually help the German sportswear brand boost sales in a significant manner?

On the heels of reports last month that Puma’s third-quarter profits had dropped by more than a third, the Kering-owned brand noted that having the singer on board has had a positive effect thus far, even though it has had little to go on by way of its ongoing collaboration with the singer, entitled, Fenty by Rihanna – until recently.

Since naming Rihanna as its “creative director” and brand ambassador this past December, the seven-time Grammy Award winner and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 2014 Fashion Icon Award winner has been slow to roll out any of her “designs” for the brand. (Note: There is no word that she has actually had a hand in designing the products). However, in September, Puma released the singer’s first collection, which consisted of one style of shoe, the Creeper, in an array of colorways and subsequently re-released it last month in additional colors and men’s sizes.

The singer took to her Instagram on the eve of the re-launch last month to share a photo with her 30.4 million followers, along with the comment: “It's time to Rih-up on #THECREEPER New color ways for my Ladies!! And finally MENS SIZES will be available in 3 colors!!!” And in true celebrity collaboration form, both drops sold out rapidly. According to Puma's chief executive officer, Bjorn Gulden: "The launch of the first Puma by Rihanna shoe, the Creeper, has been extremely successful and most retailers have sold out within hours or days. We have generally seen a very positive development in our women's business and we will put even more focus on the female consumer moving forward."

Things have not been smooth sailing for the German brand for the past several years. In fact, according to reports this summer and then again early last month, Puma’s parent company Kering SA, which also holds ownership stakes in Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Bottega Veneta, among other brands, is open to selling its majority stake in Puma after struggling for eight years to turn around the German sporting-goods maker. Kering’s Chief Executive Officer, Francois-Henri Pinault, has reportedly tired of efforts to revamp the brand, as its sales have barely grown in recent years. By 2020, earnings will still trail behind the level they were at when Kering bought the brand in 2007, according to analysts’ estimates. And according to Bloomberg, “Pinault has a history of exiting underperforming investments, having sold or spun-off about a dozen businesses in the past decade, including department store Printemps and retailer Fnac. Kering tested buyer appetite for Puma last year, contacting investors in the Middle East and Asia.”

Until recently, when a Kering spokesman said the firm had no comment, Pinault has denied his intent to dispose of the sportswear unit, telling Bloomberg in February that he was “very confident that we will be able to continue to turn around Puma.”

Executives at Puma, on the other hand, have dismissed the reports as “rumors,” and remain optimistic that new products, such as Rihanna’s collection and running shoes promoted by Usain Bolt could restore the German sportswear firm to health in 2016. "We will start to see an improvement in the numbers next year," said Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden, who was appointed by the French luxury goods group in 2013 to restore Puma's focus on sport after sales were hurt by a shift into fashion products.

As for what we can expect from Rihanna’s New York Fashion Week debut, apparel and more footwear, of course. Speaking on a different occasion, Puma said the first shoe by Rihanna has sold well and “it plans a full collection of shoes and apparel in 2016.”