Under Armour (NYSE:UA) (NYSE:UAA) -- the No. 3 athletic apparel and footwear brand -- has been in a funk lately with growth slowing and a challenging U.S. retail environment. It even announced negative quarterly revenue growth for the first time as a public company a few weeks ago.
It would appear that founder and CEO Kevin Plank's move to hire industry veteran Patrik Frisk as President and chief operating officer in July couldn't have come at a better time. But who is Frisk? And what are his plans to help this founder-led business get back on track?
Frisk's responsibilities are clear: lead the "company's go-to-market strategy and the successful execution of its long-term growth plan." Along with that challenge, Frisk will also have to manage key marketing, supply chain, product, and revenue responsibilities.
There are three key reasons Plank has chosen Frisk to be entrusted with these tasks:
Extensive industry leadership experience: Frisk has spent 30 years in the apparel, footwear, and retail industry with well-known brands like Timberland, Aldo Group, The North Face, and W.L. Gore. This is far from the first leadership position where he's been responsible for go-to-market strategies, products, and more.
Significant international apparel experience: When Frisk finished his tenure at VF Corp, the global apparel, footwear, and accessory company had grown to $12 billion in revenue. For his last three years at VF, he was the Coalition President of Outdoor Americas, in charge of the global performance of five key outdoor brands under the VF umbrella. Frisk has worked in seven European countries, Australia, and the U.S.
Experience with utilizing customer data: As CEO at Aldo Group, Frisk saw the implementation of a suite of Salesforce.com products that provided a "360 degree view" of the customer. This initiative allowed the company to get to know its customers better, making the brand more relevant to its high-end customers. This experience will be instrumental for Under Armour to capitalize on its recently implemented SAP system that provides a "single view of the customer."
Just over four months into his role, Frisk already has a clear sense of how he will help grow Under Armour into a $10 billion global brand.
In the company's most recent earnings call, Frisk laid out what he called "initial observations" and "context around our strengths and opportunities."
The first focus is great product. Frisk reiterated Plank's view that the company is a performance brand, but stated that in recent years, the company has been "inconsistent with this promise." Frisk went on to say this "inconsistency stops now." He emphasized that the company would "double-down" on innovation and create deeper connections with the customer.
Second, the company will utilize customer data to drive product. It's not surprising given his experience that he believes consumer insights are "crucial to a successful GTM [go-to-market] strategy." Frisk has kicked off a consumer segmentation study of 20,000 people from around the world, which he said will be combined with data from the company's connected fitness apps to more "clearly define our global consumer target."
And lastly, Frisk spent most of his time on the call explaining the "operate" leg of his plan. This is where Frisk feels he could have the largest impact.
[W]e're in the weeds working to create dramatically better synergy between how design, supply chain, and our segmentation approach is supported by our merchandising, demand creation, and distribution structure.
Basically, he wants to improve and tighten operations to be more responsive and to deliver the products that customers want. The company has gotten to where it is now through sheer "will". Frisk summarized his comments with a reassuring takeaway: "Based on my 30 years in this industry, I'm resolute and optimistic about the opportunity for Under Armour."
Frisk brings industry experience, a fresh perspective, a global view, and a solid plan. While the industry seems to face more competition and headwinds than ever before, his focus on "simultaneously reengineering our foundation, sharpening the organization, and learning what it means to operate as a big company" is exactly the thing that Under Armour needs right now.