New Balance re-enters India with its ‘Made in USA’ sportswear


New Delhi: What’s common to Steve Jobs, Rihanna, Liverpool FC and the presidents of the United States? New Balance sports shoes, made by the Boston-based athletic footwear and apparel brand that markets some of its products as “Made in USA”.

Around a fourth of the shoes the company makes are made in its factories in the US. However, around 70% of the material that goes into these shoes is imported.

On Tuesday, New Balance Athletic Shoes opened its first store in India—a 1,100 sq. ft standalone brand outlet at DLF Mall of India, Noida, near New Delhi.

This is the second time New Balance, which reported $3.3 billion of sales worldwide in 2014, is entering India after a gap of about a decade. The American shoemaker made an entry into India in the early 2000s but shut its shops after a few years.

“We were ahead of time. We did not have such a wide brand presence globally that time, and (the) retailing experience was poor. Now, the market looks more mature,” said Darren Tucker, vice president, Asia Pacific, New Balance.

The shoemaker, founded in 1906 by British emigrant William J. Riley to sell arch supports to police officers and waiters, was bought by Jim Davis, the son of a Greek immigrant to the US, in 1972 and now sells athletic shoes, apparel and accessories for men, women and kids across 5,000 outlets worldwide under brands such as New Balance, Brine, Aravon, Dunham, PF Flyers and Warrior Sports.

Over the next 2-3 years, Tucker said, the company will have about 50 stores across shopping malls and high streets in Delhi and the National Capital Region, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The company has entered into a distribution agreement with Mumbai-based The Major Brands Group for retailing of New Balance products in India.

“It’s not about the number of stores. We would prefer operating a profitable retail presence and grow at a relatively slower pace this time,” said Tucker. “All our global competitors are here. The market is built. We know our competitors, and that’s an advantage.”

With an average selling price of Rs.7,000 for shoes, New Balance will be a premium offering.

“Apparel is a promising segment. So, lifestyle is a focus area,” said Tucker. The company has also tied up with online retailer Jabong for e-retailing and is negotiating with global partner Amazon for the Indian market.

“Considering the growth of e-commerce in India, that’s a must. But, we don’t intend to be in the discounting game,” said Tucker.

The company will continue to leverage its global marketing properties across sports and athletics even for the Indian market. At the same time, said Tucker, it will develop local properties. “For India, it’s going to be cricket first. We may look at other properties at a later stage,” he added. The company is yet to finalise its endorsement deals in India.

The sports shoe and apparel market in India is dominated by Reebok, Adidas AG, Nike Inc. and Puma SE. Japan’s ASICS Corp. opened its first standalone store in Delhi in July 2015.

A report titled Sportswear Market in India 2015 by IMAGES F&R Research estimates India’s active sportswear market (including sports footwear, apparel and accessories) at Rs.6,000 crore, growing at 13% a year.