As mass athletic retailers like Nike see a “return to growth” in the U.S. market, more specialized companies like running apparel maker Brooks Sports are also capitalizing on the momentum, Brooks CEO Jim Weber told CNBC on Tuesday.
While Weber acknowledged that consumer behavior has “been a bit of a roller coaster” in recent months, he said the overarching changes in consumers’ shopping patterns — particularly the shift to digital — was helping Brooks take market share.
“All of our channels are doing well, and we have never been more successful,” Weber told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We started to grow in the back half of last year. We are seeing retail stabilizing. Consumer behavior is still digital in so many ways.”
And when it comes to modern consumers, Brooks benefits from its “inclusive” branding and specialized focus on running, the CEO said.
“Everyone — I’ve often said this — that can make a shoe is literally, I think, trying to make a running shoe: the outdoor brands and the casual brands and the like,” Weber said, pointing to Nike and Adidas as some of his company’s top competitors.
But unlike those brands, which sometimes rely on celebrity endorsements to promote their products, Weber argued that Brooks’ more personal approach would serve it well in the race for customers.
“We think running is an incredibly special sport because it’s a phenomenal sport at the track-and-field and cross-country level, but everyone’s invited,” he told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. “Back of the pack, front of the pack, no matter reasons you run, that’s what we’re all about. And that’s what makes this sport so special and what allows us to focus on it and have a phenomenal business and brand opportunity in it.”
Brooks , which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is sponsoring two athletes in the Special Olympics in Seattle, a 70,000-person even that began Tuesday and marks the biggest sporting event in Seattle since the 1990 Goodwill Games.