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Plein Sport “aggressively” targeting 295 stores by 2024

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Business |Interview

Image: Plein Sport

Philipp Plein, known for his signature maximalism and more-is-more aesthetic, is taking on the active sportswear market with Plein Sport, complete with innovative products, a disruptive retail experience with a self-service vending machine concept, and licensing details. Just don't call it a diffusion line!

Unlike luxury houses that have launched and closed diffusion and often more affordable second lines, Plein stresses that his Plein Sport offering has its own DNA and will "not cannibalise" his mainline at a press conference in his headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland. Instead, Plein Sport is looking to take a slice of the action from “a few big players” in the sportswear market, such as Nike, Adidas and Puma.

“For me, the most important thing is to not create competition inside the group,” states Plein. “Every brand in our portfolio has a specific landscape, and strategy in terms of positioning, communication, development, and distribution. Our brands complete each other, and they don't compete with each other.”

Image: Plein Sport

Plein Sport places a premium experience at the heart of relaunch

Plein Sport is instead being pitched as the “ultimate sportswear experience” positioned between fashion lifestyle and sport, driven by ultra-modern “wearable, non-polarising, functional products” with a starting price point at under 200 euros, omnichannel distribution, and a tech-mobile retail experience with a mobile store concept in a redesigned McLaren Formula 1 truck.

Plein added: “There is a huge opportunity in sportswear – it is a multi-billion-dollar market that is bigger than the luxury market, yet it is completely underdeveloped. We’re not aiming to compete with the big players, we are fine with 1 percent of Nike’s turnover, even half a percent in the next two to three years would be great.

“Plein Sport is leveraging the name, Philipp Plein but is completely different. Philipp Plein can be difficult to please everyone, Plein Sport can. We don’t want it to be a fashion brand, we want it to be a sports brand.”

The brand is also about “breaking boundaries,” shares Plein to FashionUnited, offering advanced technical solutions with cutting-edge design for both men and women. Sneakers are a core staple of the brand, with all products designed in the Plein Sports Lab to offer “advance stamina and boost execution” with technical fabrications and lightweight ergonomic and shock-absorbing soles.

Image: Plein Sport

Plein wants his activewear brand to be a premium and innovative experience for his fans. He has invested in everything from developing 3D tigers on the sneakers that required eight moulds and cost half a million dollars to collector-style packaging. Each footwear style will come in either a strong transparent Perspex box allowing wearers to display their sneakers or in black cardboard boxes with an integrated miniature screen inside displaying the latest Plein Sport campaign.

“The product is the star,” stresses Plein. “I want to create something that stands out from the market - that is exciting and delivers value for the premium price point.”

Alongside the apparel and sneakers, Plein has also signed several licensing deals with Timex, Laipe and De Rigo to add timepieces, bags and eyewear. In addition, forthcoming licensing deals are expected to be announced to add fragrance, food supplements, kids' shoes, and gym concepts to offer a “360° experience to Plein Sport”.

Image: Plein Sport

Plein Sport targets shopping centre locations for retail activations

Retail is at the heart of the Plein Sport strategy, with Plein planning to open 295 monobrand stores by 2024, including 50 next year. The first is slated to open in January in Madrid’s Plaza Norte 2, Spain, chosen as it’s the city where Plein sponsors Athletico Madrid football club, with Plein adding that they’ve “more or less” confirmed contracts for nine locations for Q1 2023.

The first stores will be in Europe and Eastern Europe, targeting the company’s “key markets,” with plans to add retail locations in the US, the Middle East, the UK, and Asia. But Plein also noted that the store rollout will also be linked to “reaching targets we have in mind” as it is all self-financed.

Image: Plein Sport

The physical locations will also showcase a new retail concept that is consumer friendly and “hyper-futuristic,” with specially made self-service vending-style modular furniture. Each store will be smaller than Philipp Plein’s current retail offering, under 1,000 square feet “no bigger than that,” adds Plein.

Of which 50 percent will be stock, and 60-70 percent of the retail floor will be dedicated to sneakers. The sneakers will be displayed in vending-style transparent stacking systems, where the consumer will access the styles themselves, and return unwanted styles via a drop box in the wall.

“We want to develop a new kind of shopping experience that is a mix between self-service and a classic store,” he adds. “We want to invite the clients to take their shoes by themselves – we to involve the customer in the buying process.”

The approach is “experimental,” adds Plein, with the brand targeting high footfall and high visibility while utilising a smaller number of staff to ensure “profitability”.

Image: Plein Sport

Philipp Plein pop-up truck

Plein also introduced the first mobile store concept, an articulated customised Formula 1 truck, offering sneakers on the ground floor and apparel on the upper deck. It will act as a roving pop-up store across Europe, parking outside “big shopping malls” to access viability for future permanent stores, while also driving brand awareness.

Currently, the truck is parked outside Philipp Plein’s headquarters in Lugano, where it will stay until it moves outside Atlético Madrid Metropolitano Stadium at the end of December. Other locations haven’t been confirmed, however, Plein added it expects it to travel to Germany and France and be used as a marketing tool at trade fairs.

Image: Plein Sport

FashionUnited was invited by Philipp Plein to attend the launch in Lugano.

Philipp Plein
Plein Sport