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Why Under Armour is more than just another apparel company: NRF 2020

Under Armour executive chairman Kevin Plank

The final day of the National Retail Federation’s annual ‘Big Show’ in New York City featured conversations with a slew of executives from global retail businesses, including Nordstrom, Under Armour, WW International (formerly Weight Watchers), Pinterest, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness empire, and others.

We’ll be featuring many of their insights in the next issue of Inside Retail magazine, which will be out in February, but in the meantime, here’s a recap of today’s presentation from Under Armour founder and executive chairman, Kevin Plank.

What sets Under Armour apart

There are a few key questions all retailers must ask themselves, according to Plank. What’s your point of view? Who is your customer? And how can you solve their problems? Asking these fundamental questions has helped Under Armour to position itself not as a retailer, but as a human performance company that is in the business of solving problems for its customers. 

“One thing we all know is that the world doesn’t need another capable apparel and footwear manufacturer. They need a dream, they need hope, and that innovative brand positioning is our best play,” he said.

One way Under Armour manifests this belief is through its connected fitness business, which is based on health and fitness apps, such as MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal, that the company has acquired over the years. According to Plank, the company reaches more than 300 million consumers around the world and has more than 70,000 app downloads per day through this side of the business. 

“We can tell you empirically that the average run is 3.117 miles,” Plank said, because the company has more than a billion workouts logged into its system. And with several billion meals logged into its system, it has insights into how consumers are eating and digesting. 

“We’re now in turn giving them gifts back,” Plank said. “We’re giving them things like meal plans, and we can help them with how they think about nutrition.”

Under Armour also embeds this mindset into its product offering. For instance, the brand’s new line of smart shoes Hovr includes an embedded chip to measure the time and distance of customers’ runs, as well as their cadence and gait, to help them improve their technique.

“It speaks to the DNA of the brand [which is about being ] relevant for anybody, whether you see yourself as an elite Olympic athlete or you see yourself as just a consumer,” he said.

Another initiative that reflects Under Armour’s untraditional view of what it means to be a retail business is its recent partnership with Virgin Galactic to outfit the next generation of people who will travel into space.

“That kind of big vision… is the kind of place where all brands should be,” Plank said.

Check out our coverage from the first two days of NRF here and here. 

Heather McIlvaine traveled to NRF as a guest of Intel. 

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