Just a few years ago, Under Armour’s charismatic founder and President Kevin Plank was compared to Nike founder Phil Knight. Now, he can be likened to another Nike leader: Plank’s resignation as President and CEO was announced about the same time as Mark Parker stepped down as Nike President and CEO.
Under Armour COO Patrik Frisk has been given the thankless task of stepping into Plank’s shoes to try to get the brand back on the meteoric growth path that formerly gave rise to expectations that Under Armour could give Nike a run for its money as America’s #1 brand.
The 20% plus annual growth trajectory took a dip after April 2017, when the brand first posted a loss. Around this time Under Armour, like Nike, announced that it was going to concentrate on direct-to-consumer sales and communication rather than other retailers. It has been struggling ever since, despite an $300-m restructuring campaign, and reduced its workforce by 680 over the past two years.
According to the latest financial results, third quarter revenue was 1% down to $1.4-bn and was flat on a currency neutral basis. Wholesale revenue was 2% down to $892-m and even direct-to-consumer sales was 1% down at $463-m. Direct sales now represent 32% of the brand’s total revenue.
US sales was its soft spot as sales in North America was 4% down (to $1-bn) but international business grew 5% to a modest $368-m. Good news, however, is that sales grew 9% in EMEA, which includes South Africa.
Frisk (56) will take over from Plank in January 2020 as President and CEO, but he will report to Plank, who’ll be Executive Chairman and Brand Chief. Apart from running the board, Plank will focus on product elevation and improving the brand story.
Frisk had 30 years’ experience in the apparel, footwear and retail industry when he joined Under Armour in 2017. He had been CEO of The Aldo Group and before that worked for the VF Corporation for about ten years, where he had various leadership titles like Coalition President of Outdoor Americas (The North Face and Timberland), President of the Timberland brand, President of Outdoor & Action Sports (EMEA), and VP and GM of The North Face.