Adidas guru gears up for new challenge

He trod the world stage as an executive at adidas, but now Kevin Roberts is back in Australia in a bid to place a local sportswear outfit firmly on the world stage.
By · 30 Sep 2013
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30 Sep 2013
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He trod the world stage as an executive at adidas, but now Kevin Roberts is back in Australia in a bid to place a local sportswear outfit firmly on the world stage.

Mr Roberts is the first chief executive of 2XU, a high-performance sportswear brand that launched in Melbourne in 2005.

The business turnover is about $50 million a year, but Mr Roberts believes he can triple that in the next three years, with an eventual goal of making it a $1 billion company. This is despite most discretionary retailers battling tough trading conditions.

However, Mr Roberts believes the sportswear sector is different. "People always run, they always play footy, particularly in developed markets around the world," he said. "We have an increasing focus on wellness, and obviously an ageing population that's very focused on their health and their level of fitness, so in a sense 2XU has a fortunate position in two respects: a) being a premium brand and b) being in the athletics space, where it's actually a functional purchase rather than a purchase out of a fashionability."

Mr Roberts has led an apparel brand back to profitability before in the early 2000s, when at age 30 he was appointed managing director of adidas Australia. From there he rose through the ranks to become senior vice-president of adidas' sports performance division, where he was responsible for $9 billion in global revenue.

Lifestyle choices have lured him back to Australia. He and his wife believe Melbourne is a good place to raise their five young daughters. But his eyes are still firmly on the world stage. His aim, to elevate 2XU's annual revenue to $150 million by 2016, is based on "four pillars".

These growth areas are expanding wholesale distribution; opening more retail stores and increasing its online presence (internet sales are to account for 10 per cent of revenue by 2016); accelerating key markets in the US, Canada, Scandinavia and Japan; and expanding the company's product categories.

"2XU was established as a triathlon brand originally in the speciality channel," Mr Roberts said. "We have penetrated the speciality channel successfully and we have a great opportunity now to trickle down the distribution pyramid to the broader sporting goods channel, which offers significantly more volume opportunities."

Despite Mr Roberts' own record, he said he took inspiration from North American companies Under Armour and Lululemon, which were both established in the 1990s and have broken the $1 billion revenue barrier.

He said 2XU had recently opened its 13th retail store in Santa Monica in Los Angeles and was about to open its 14th at Fashion Island on Newport Beach, California. It is also expanding its wholesale distribution with US sportswear chains Dick's Sporting Goods and Academy Sports, the latter of which has more than 400 stores across the US.

But Mr Roberts stressed the company was not a retailer or a wholesaler but "a high-performance athletic brand that's distributed through multiple channels".

Although the company has eight product categories, Mr Roberts sees growth opportunities in fitness apparel and compression wear, which it has developed in recent years with research partner the Australian Institute of Sport.

"We're looking to capitalise on the fact that consumers around the world are really now just starting to understand the performance benefits of compression."
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