Puma

Sorry – that title is a bit misleading. I am not suggesting Jochen Zeitz, the chief exec of PPR-owned sportswear brand Puma, is in favour of counterfeiting. Rather, I was struck by comments he made as reported today in the FT regarding the benefits of synthetic fabrics vs leather in ye olde sneakers, and how the former were significantly better for the environment than the latter. This is something you actually hear a lot from various environmentalists, and it seems to me most consumers would consider it surprising. They also might be surprised to learn that fashion, whether driven by eco concerns or just the lust for the new, is fast going in the same direction.

 

Take that, PPR! You’re not the only luxury player on the block that’s recognised the potential of “sports lifestyle” brands (though you may be the only one with an entire division, and strategy, dedicated to the sector). Compagnie Financiere Richemont, the Swiss luxury group that is normally known for its watch and jewellery expertise – they own Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Jaeger LeCoutre, and so on – just announced it has acquired US-based high-end casual clothing/golf brand Peter Millar. The move raises so many interesting questions! 

Even before its results announcement today, PPR had made some news: it was proceeding apace with its plan to dispose of no-longer-core assets (ie, non-luxury/sports lifestyle rbands), and had agreed to sell 29.8% of its stake in CFAO, an African automotive and pharmaceutical distribution company, to Toyota Tsusho Corporation. This should net the PPR guys about €980 million.The stated plan is to use the money to pay down debt, but in that impossible-to-control way of things, already there is speculation among some watchers about what they might buy, if they were going to use the money to buy something. I love a nice round of speculation. 

An interesting policy shift is creeping through the luxury industry: from being terrified of talking about their environmental/CSR initiatives except in the most covert whispers, slowly a number of voices are being raised.
Following PPR’s announcement that they were creating an “environmental profit & loss account” for Puma, today Tiffany & Co unveiled a new web site dedicated to their CSR policies. 

PPR is putting luxury on hold and charging forward into sportswear and sustainability. Yesterday, the French conglomerate displayed its trademark dispassionate ability to end (or suspend) industrial dalliances it feels may become less than productive by announcing the creation of – and concentration on — a new “sport and lifestyle” division run by Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, who has also been promoted to Executive Chairman of Puma. Still, I’m more struck by the lead the group buried: the fact Mr Zeitz is becoming not only Puma’s Executive Chairman, but also PPR’s Chief Sustainability Officer.