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Adidas acquires Five Ten USA

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You know the brand by its three-stripe logo stamped on athletic shoes and jerseys from neighborhood soccer games to the Olympics. But the adidas Group, a 46,000-employee juggernaut headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, has taken aim at the outdoors world, including a surprise announcement this week with its acquisition of Five Ten USA, the Redlands, Calif., brand known most for its rock climbing shoes.

We interviewed Greg Thomsen, managing director of adidas Outdoor U.S., a few months ago to get a scoop in our story “Adidas Enters the U.S. Outdoor Market.” In the Q&A, Thomsen stressed the adidas brand’s commitment to the climbing market as a core focus as well as a mission to design and market products with a youthful vibe that would resonate with a “new generation of outdoor athlete,” as Thomsen put it. With this week’s acquisition news, it looks like adidas will edge further down that path.

Five Ten is indeed both climbing-centric as well as generally youthful and on the industry pulse. The company’s Stealth Rubber technology, a “sticky rubber” favored by many climbers for its grip and durability, is “Five Ten’s greatest value for adidas,” according to a report by outdoor-trade publication SNEWS. Beyond climbing, Five Ten sells footwear for action sports like BMX biking and sky diving. It’s a core, niche brand that’s been chugging along for years and gathering a fervent following along the way.

Classic Five Ten rock climbing shoe

As we reported in the Thomsen interview previously, adidas (small “a” is intentional) has long had its toe dipped in the outdoors world, including development as far back as the 1970s with Reinhold Messner and footwear that went to Mount Everest. Today, after a launch in Europe in 2008, the adidas Outdoor brand is coming to American soil with a line of footwear, jackets, optics, and apparel. Footwear is the flagship of the brand, and with its outdoor push boots and trail shoes are a major focus. Five Ten will add to the company’s already impressive quiver, which includes adidas-branded shoes for dozens of sports as well as products from Reebok, TaylorMade, and Rockport, all additional footwear brands that adidas owns.

Not so different. Five Ten board/BMX shoe (top) and an adidas outdoors model

How will Five Ten fit into the adidas mix? The company, which is family-owned, employs just 37 people. Charles Cole, founder and president of Five Ten, said now that the brand will be supported by adidas it can “finally reach the full potential that [it] has to offer.” Cole added, “adidas has the same principles of putting athletes and performance first that have guided Five Ten for nearly 30 years.”

According to the press release, adidas will pay a total purchase price of $25 million in cash to Five Ten, though the money is “dependent on Five Ten achieving certain performance measures over the next three years,” the announcement cites. The press materials go on to describe an ambitious “Strategic Business Plan” in which the adidas Group expects sales in the outdoor segment to exceed €500 million by 2015. Its final goal is then to “become a leading player in the outdoor market.” Five Ten, with its high-performing shoes, proprietary rubber, and big core-outdoors fan base, appears to be one of the building blocks adidas is hefting as it marches toward that towering goal.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. He still has, and occasionally climbs in, a pair of wear-worn Five Ten Moccasym shoes (red model pictured above in article) that he purchased for rock climbing in 1995.

Alpine roots: Climbing legend Reinhold Messner is a long-time adidas partner, including a history that extends back to the ’70s and a design collaboration for a Mount Everest ascent

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