Reebok says it's refocusing on heritage with women

Reebok, now some two years into the leadership of COO Jay Margolis, has announced it is shifting direction and will put more emphasis on classics and its women's heritage.
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Reebok, now some two years into the leadership of COO Jay Margolis, has announced it is shifting direction and will put more emphasis on classics and its women's heritage.

"We are going back to our roots and leveraging our heritage," Margolis told attendees at the Financial Day workshop held Jan. 19 the day before The Super Show.

Aside from bonds with music and hip-hop artists under its RBK brand, the Canton, Mass.-based, company will roll out a women's program in the spring it calls "Training for Life."

The program will focus on what Margolis said made the company successfully in the '70s and early '80s -- basic fitness workouts such as walking, running and going to the gym, and women's participation in them.

About a year ago, the company had announced to the media a rollout of a new women's initiative, which was then cancelled suddenly without explanation. This time, Margolis said, Reebok has an entire group in place from public relations to product management where each member is focused solely on the women's Training for Life program. It will launch in May with a women's fitness symposium and a media event.

Analysts at Financial Day questioned whether Reebok could capture that market, which it keeps talking about but, so far, seems to be out of its reach. Margolis said the team approach will help the company indeed recapture its heritage.

Margolis also explained the company's new emphasis on performance, particularly in running, which will crossover in some ways with the women's program since running will be the foundation of the Training for Life program. In a clip of an ad, the tagline read, "Running made easy ... since 1895." The company will introduce five new performance models immediately (which also come in women's-specific sizing), with three more coming in April.

CEO Paul Fireman, who was sitting quietly in the back of the room while Margolis took the podium, piped up, "We're back in the game."

SNEWS View: We have seen a "new" Reebok and "new" initiatives so many times that our heads still spin. When the company cancelled its last women's rollout, it did so quite suddenly, and in fact recently parted ways with a woman who had been hired a couple of years ago to head up that initiative. We'll be very interested to see how this one progresses. But we also question, as one analyst did, how the company can do both "hot" (with its trendy hip-hop push) and "performance" all in one breath.

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