Sep 18, 2023
Philipp Plein has made a new start with the Plein Sport brand, transforming it into a new, premium-affordable concept centred on fitness apparel and sneakers. It is a complete overhaul for the sportswear line owned by the Swiss group led by the eponymous German designer which, besides luxury label Philipp Plein, also owns high-end menswear label Billionaire. Plein Sport was introduced in 2016, and since then it has been often put on hold. The brand embarked on a comprehensive relaunch last winter, and has now unveiled its new look by opening its first monobrand stores, among them its first shop in Italy, inaugurated on September 14 at the Oriocenter shopping mall east of Milan, opposite Milan Bergamo airport.
The 100 square-metre store, with its black marble-effect flooring, mirrored walls and rows of porthole-like, neon-illuminated displays, each showcasing a different sneaker model, will not go unnoticed. “It’s a luxury concept set within a highly commercial environment. No other sport brand on the market has the same luxury design approach. Compared to its neighbours and especially to other sportswear retailers, the store, and Plein Sport, stand out for having a much more glamorous image and for offering a different experience,” said Plein.
The store does look larger than it actually is, and most of the retail area is dedicated to product displays. Plein Sport chiefly concentrates on footwear, which accounts for 70% of its assortment with some 25 models, mostly unisex. “We have invested a great deal on footwear development technology. The idea is to truly focus on sneakers, through high-level research on technology, materials and innovation. More so than we do in fashion,” added Plein.
The ebullient designer-businessman himself made the trip to Italy to present his latest project. Casually dressed, Plein spoke to a handful of journalists, wearing a pair of Plein Sport’s brand-new trainers, whose comfort and fit he is testing ahead of the launch, planned for next year. “We’re attacking a very small, well-protected circle of five sport and activewear brands which between them control nearly 90% of the market. It’s very interesting because demand is extremely high, and it’s one of the rare sectors where there still are major opportunities for developing something new,” he said.
Plein Sport’s competitors are Nike, Adidas, Puma and Skechers. “Many sportswear brands are positioned in niche segments, like yoga for example. We focus on fitness training. We’re not interested in football or basketball. We’re convinced that gym training is the most popular sporting activity worldwide. And no brand is exclusively dedicated to this segment,” said Plein.
For the time being, entry price is at around €200, but the objective is to become more aggressive and drop down to €90, with €600 as the top price level. To fit with this positioning, manufacturing has been localised in China and Turkey, “working on high-volume models and scouting out the best suppliers and styling solutions,” as Carmine Rotondaro, the group’s business consultant, told FashionNetwork.com. “Our strategy is to stick, as far as possible, to three key parameters: 100 square-metre [stores], with €100,000 annual rent and €100,000 investment per store,” he added.
“Entering the premium segment is a novelty for us. We’re keen to learn, while putting to good use our luxury industry experience. Our concept is very smart. We’ll open stores only inside shopping malls, where rents are much lower than on luxury shopping streets. The store’s interior layout is modular and the retail area is fully exploited, allowing us to be extremely efficient and to deploy very quickly, and giving us the chance to open stores very rapidly, everywhere in the world,” said Plein.
While Philipp Plein, the group’s main label, has diversified across all sorts of categories, Plein Sport is instead solely focused on sportswear, with a highly specific assortment. The ready-to-wear range, whose signature products are hoodies priced between €200 and €300, includes t-shirts, sweaters, tank tops, shorts and functional, basic track suits, all characterised by distinctive designs in which the brand’s logo plays a big part. The range will soon be extended to outerwear, with down jackets and sport tops.
Plein Sport is a fitness-focused brand that primarily wants to have broad appeal. Denim, leather and gemstones are banned from the collection, to set it apart from Philipp Plein. The line also includes accessories like bags, watches and glasses. They are made by three Philipp Plein licensees, respectively Laipe, Timex and De Rigo, which have developed ad hoc, more affordable collections for Plein Sport.
The line currently operates about 20 stores, located worldwide from Madrid to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. They include monobrand, full-price stores, both directly operated and franchised, as well as outlet stores. Plein Sport is also planning to expand via multibrand retailers, and wants to power up its retail presence in the next three years. Italy’s next Plein Sport store will be inaugurated in Rome in two months, and other openings are on the cards. “We’re planning to have between 300 and 400 stores within three to four years. We’re currently still testing the concept, both in terms of store layout and products,” concluded Plein. The group’s goal is to expand its clientèle and its business.
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