At Vulcabras, the race in the direction of informal vogue is gaining steam
In the 1990s, when he was a Formula 3 driver, Pedro Bartelle followed a ritual. On the day before each stage, he anticipated all possible situations according to his position on the grid. With this tactic, there were many times when he took the lead at the start and reached the highest place on the podium.
Bartelle left the slopes in 1997, but carries this practice into running Vulcabras, a company controlled by his family. It was under his direction that the footwear company began to focus its operations on sports, through its own brand Olympikus and through local agreements to operate the businesses of the American Under Armor and the Japanese Mizuno.
After planting its feet in the segment and positioning itself in the dispute with brands such as Nike and Adidas, the group already envisions new expansion shortcuts. In this race, the strategy that promises to gain more momentum is the approximation between sport and casual fashion, within the concept known in the market as athleisure🇧🇷
“There is, within our sector, almost a new business happening, which is the lifestyle sport,” says Bartelle, in an interview with NeoFeed🇧🇷 “Organically, we are developing the athleisure in our three brands, and we are also very attentive to new businesses. This market is boiling.”
In this “melting pot”, Bartelle considers that, today, Vulcabras is well served with regard to the sports portfolio, in particular, in the tennis category, in line with its origin. Olympikus is the most democratic and accessible brand, while Under Armor has a more premium character.
With a more specialized approach, Mizuno, in turn, has greater appeal in the running and high performance. “Today, we serve all budgets. We started selling sports shoes at R$150 and we’re going up to R$1,800”, says the CEO of Vulcabras.
The group has been stepping up to bring these brands closer to everyday fashion. At Olympikus, one movement was the appointment of singer Iza as creative director and the launch of the Ultralight line, of casual sneakers that, among other features, have cushioning technologies, more used in sports shoes.
At Mizuno, this strategy translates, for example, into bringing to Brazil lines such as Wave Prophecy Sorayama, developed in partnership with the Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama, sold at the top of the range of the group’s portfolio, up to R$ 1.8 thousand.
Based on these and other initiatives, Bartelle explains how the concept of athleisure is being explored in each brand in the Vulcabras portfolio. “It is a futuristic fashion, in the case of Mizuno, a more trekkingadventure, at Under Armour, and more urban fashion, with Iza, at Olympikus”, he observes.
From this point of view, he also does not rule out Vulcabras investing in licensing or even in the acquisition of new brands. One of the criteria that would justify this thesis is the fact that this shift requires the reinforcement of some capabilities that, today, the group does not have entirely at home.
Vulcabras is not, of course, the only company in the sector betting on the combination of sport and lifestyle🇧🇷 Partner at consultancy Varese Retail, Alberto Serrentino highlights that the trend was already on the rise and intensified in the pandemic, with the search, in fashion and habits, for a more casual and comfortable style.
“There is a movement of both fashion brands creating sports-inspired lines and sports brands creating collections for everyday life,” he observes. “You have from Nike, with complete lines, to mass brands such as Zara and the Brazilian Renner, C&A and Riachuelo investing in this trend.”
He cites other examples of companies and brands that have joined this trend. These are the cases of Gucci and Adidas, who launched collections in collaboration in this space. With this same bias, Adidas also partnered with designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney.
In Brazil, in addition to the aforementioned retailers and names such as SBF, which controls Centauro and operates Nike’s businesses in the country, one of the cases that illustrate this convergence is Aramis.
This November, the brand announced the launch of Urban Performance, focusing precisely on the concept of athleisure🇧🇷 The venture is the company’s first spin-off and symbolizes the beginning of its strategy of building a “house of brands🇧🇷
Serrentino makes, however, a caveat for this trend to consolidate, especially in the Brazilian market. For him, the fact that the country has few large chains specializing in sports fashion is a complicating element in this equation.
“There are many shoe retailers and multi-brand stores, for example, that also sell sneakers, and stores specializing in sneakers, but smaller ones,” he says. “So the challenge is distribution and where to position these products so as not to be limited to a few megastores.”
Aware of this challenge, Vulcabras has been betting on direct sales in its brands’ e-commerces as an alternative. This model is also being used to circumvent distribution difficulties in clothing and accessories, categories that are another more recent growth path in the group’s strategy.
In the third quarter of 2022, Vulcabras reported net revenue of BRL 663.5 million, up 23.8%
Between July and September of this year, the company’s e-commerce revenue grew 128.6%, to R$ 38.4 million. In the period, the company’s total net revenue was BRL 663.5 million, up 23.8% over the same period, in 2021. With the amount, the group reached its quarterly record in this line of the balance sheet.
In a report, BTG Pactual highlighted the solid numbers in the quarter, including the gross margin, which grew for the seventh consecutive quarter, reaching 37.7%. With a buy recommendation and a target price for the share of BRL 18, the bank pointed out that the share is being traded at a “cheap level”.
Vulcabras shares ended the trading session on Wednesday, November 30, on the B3 quoted at R$12.69, which represented a slight drop of 0.63%. In the accumulated result for the year, the shares have appreciated close to 39%. The company is valued at R$ 3.11 billion.
The figure in question is well below the company’s market value of BRL 1.8 billion in May 2015, when Bartelle, who has been with the company since 2001, took over as CEO of the operation. At the time, Vulcabras had just come out of an extensive and tough restructuring process.
Years before, the growth of imports of Asian footwear in the country seriously affected the company, which had been imposing a strong pace of investments to expand its structure and, with this competition, had to downsize its operation. So, in turnaroundwhich relied on advice from the consultancy Galeazzi, the company laid off 30,000 employees and closed 26 of its 29 factories.
“From then on, the company needed to perform. The reins were back in our hands, but we were still at very low speed,” says Bartelle. “The market gave us a vote of confidence again and the company, even without major investments, was recovering.”
In another chapter of this story, in 2017, Vulcabras made a re-IPO, listing its shares on the Novo Mercado and raising funds to modernize its factory park and begin to focus its operation on sports brands. “Since then, we haven’t had a year with a loss”, emphasizes Bartelle.
In this interview with the CEO Connection, Bartelle talks more about this restructuring and topics such as the use of data to improve inventory management at suppliers, the prospects in the domestic and foreign markets, and his trajectory of more than 20 years in the group controlled by his family.