image: NY Times

image: NY Times

Puma’s deal with Rihanna is slated to help the smaller German sportswear firm get back in the game, according to executives. And maybe even more importantly, her star is expected to help Puma even the playing field with its closest rival, fellow German brand, adidas. 

“Superstar and Stan Smith shoes are everywhere you go. They are a huge growth vehicle for them,” Bjorn Gulden, who took over as Puma chief executive in 2013 and worked at Adidas earlier in his career, told a conference call for reporters.

As noted by Reuters, “Compared to the much bigger Nike and Adidas, Gulden said Puma was still struggling to get space at retailers, although its popular retro suede sneakers and new women’s products were prompting distributors to call to ask to stock its range again. Gulden made the comments after Puma reported quarterly net profit rose 4 percent to 25.8 million euros ($29.4 million), while sales rose a currency-adjusted 7.3 percent to 852 million euros, slightly shy of average analyst forecasts.”

Gulden said currency effects had slowed growth in sales and profitability in the first quarter although the women’s business, helped by products designed by singer Rihanna, had started to show “excellent results”. “The women’s business helps on the men’s side too. Rihanna opens the door,” he said.

While Puma is still battling the impact of the stronger U.S. dollar – the currency in which it sources most products – Gulden said it was benefiting from lower raw material prices and cost of shipping from Asia, while managing to lift some prices.