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Puma to sharpen its claws after PPR bid

Puma will launch a retail offensive and additional designer collaborations as part of plans to become 'the most desirable sports lifestyle brand in the world', as luxury group Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) prepared to bid for the sportswear label.

Puma aims to raise its luxury and fashion credentials as part of the planned deal with PPR, which owns brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta.

A spokesman for Puma told Drapers that the brand planned to use PPR's retail and fashion expertise to open up to 15 concept stores a year around the world. He said: "The development of the retail side of the business is very important for the future, and the fashion expertise of PPR means Puma can continue to develop the sports side of its business into other areas including motor racing and sailing."

He added that there were no plans to alter the distribution strategy or management structure in the UK.

PPR is planning to launch a bid for Puma after buying a 27.1% controlling minority stake in the company on April 10.

Sportswear experts said the deal was a logical move. One former sportswear brand director said: "Puma's designs are getting more creative, and they've been doing designer tie-ups at the higher end of the market for a while. Strategies such as premium sub-brand Puma 96 Hours, the tie-up with Schedoni leather, and its luggage range launching this autumn do a lot to give it some differentiation from more mid-market labels. This deal would help put more distance between them."

Other observers said the benefits would work both ways, with PPR broadening its appeal to shoppers in mid-market areas.

JJB Sports non-executive director Roger Best predicted more designer collaborations. "It is interesting that a company like PPR is coming more into the middle market. It's a little like the tie-up that Karl Lagerfeld did with H&M. It is indicative of the trend of luxury businesses looking at how they can widen their appeal to a broader area and to shoppers who might not be able to afford the brand. I'm sure it will also keep the sports side of the Puma business and the segmentation it has now."

JJB Sports finance director David Greenwood said it would not cause problems if Puma was to streamline its middle-market distribution. "It's good that Puma doesn't go to our nearest competitor. Puma is at the higher end of our offer. But it's not more than 3% to 4% of turnover, so it's not a make or break brand for us," he said.

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