Under Armour had a big fall from grace in 2017 -- and it could get worse

  • Once a hot company, Under Armour had a very rough year.
  • Forces both external and internal caused it to lose market share and sales.
  • It may be set up for an even worse 2018, but there are reasons to be hopeful.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that fell from grace more than Under Armour did in 2017.

The sportswear company that was once lauded as the next big thing in apparel suffered a number of high-profile departures, saw its stock fall more than 40%, and reported its first quarterly loss.

Early in the year, CEO Kevin Plank set off a firestorm with comments on CNBC that many saw as praise for President Donald Trump. He later clarified his comments and left Trump’s American manufacturing board, but the damage, in the eyes of many, was already done.

Survey data confirmed that the brand didn’t have the cachet it once did, and it had become especially unpopular with teens. Headlines proclaiming that “the glory days are over” kept on coming, and analysts downgraded the stock.

Under Armour has suffered as sportswear has declined in popularity. In 2016, Plank said that the company needed to “become more fashion.” It never got there in 2017, and it’s not looking likely that it will become any more fashionable in 2018. In fact, another year may just serve to highlight the gulf between Under Armour and its more fashionable competitors.

There are reasons to be optimistic heading into the new year. The company is reorganising its more style-forward lines, its new Curry 4 sneakers already have more buzz than the Curry 3 ever had, and it’s rethinking how to deliver to customers.

Nevertheless, it has a long road ahead, as it suffered perhaps the biggest fall from grace of any company in 2017.

In 2018, Under Armour’s challenge is set. It will be opening its largest store ever in 2018, in the former FAO Schwartz location on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and all eyes will be watching to see if it can turn things around.

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