Dive Brief:

  • Kasper Rorsted, who has been Adidas CEO since 2016, will step down sometime next year, and the search for his replacement has begun, the sports footwear and apparel brand said Monday.

  • Rorsted will remain CEO until a successor has been appointed, according to a company press release.

  • The brand last month lowered its outlook, saying that sales in China were especially challenged amid the ongoing pandemic.

Dive Insight:

Adidas in recent years has been adjusting its portfolio and shifting its ambitions. The company sold off its Reebok brand and made plans to fill a gap at Foot Locker left by Nike’s move to scale back that wholesale partnership. Now, it’s shaking up its leadership.

In a statement, Adidas board chair Thomas Rabe noted that Rorsted was instrumental in strategically repositioning the company, accelerating its digital transformation, with online sales growing more than fivefold, and doubling its sales in North America, the world’s largest sporting goods market. During his tenure, more women joined the company’s leadership ranks, as it strengthened its efforts in sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion, Rabe said.

“Following the successful divestiture of TaylorMade, CCM Hockey and Reebok the company is now able to focus its efforts on its core brand adidas,” Rabe said.

The brand appears to need that. It has fallen behind rivals with lackluster offerings, and its strategy to depend on sales in China to expand has been thwarted by continued lockdowns there, according to GlobalData Apparel Analyst Darcey Jupp.

“It is clear that Adidas’ products are not resonating with consumers, as its core collection has been uninspiring, and it has missed out on key trends that Nike is quick to capture,” Jupp said in emailed comments earlier this month. “Its collaborations with Gucci and Wales Bonner are a step in the right direction, but the premium price points only appeal to a small percentage of its consumers, particularly as inflation bites.”

In his own statement Monday, Rorsted acknowledged such challenges but noted that the brand has been growing double digits in 85% of its business, which he said is “heading in the right direction.”

“As a company, we have achieved great progress in strategic areas of our business. I am proud of our achievements as a team,” he said. “The past years have been marked by several external factors that disrupted our business significantly. It required huge efforts to master these challenges. This is why enabling a restart in 2023 is the right thing to do – both for the company and me personally.”

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