Kanye West isn’t the only pop star who can sell sneakers.
Sportswear brand Puma reported fourth quarter results that were better than expected, boosted in particular by its sneaker line with singer Rihanna. Sales for the quarter grew 17.1% to €879 million ($974.8 million), and Puma said sales of its Rihanna-designed shoes, which hit the market in the second half of 2015, were “igniting” its women’s business.
Women are a top priority for the brand in the years ahead, CEO Bjørn Gulden made clear in a press conference. “The future is female…we see more and more women across the world are doing sports,” he said, according to Reuters. “We feel we can be the brand that owns the space between the gym and the runway.”
Puma will have a lot of competition. Nike is also targeting women to help it reach its goal of $50 billion in sales by 2020, and Adidas just kicked off a campaign for female athletes centered on a sneaker engineered for women’s feet. But the sales potential is certainly there. Skechers became the number two sneaker brand in the US, the world’s largest sportswear market, largely by appealing to female customers.
Puma has struggled in recent years, and was smart to sign Rihanna as its women’s creative director in 2014. Research firm NPD Group just named the singer ”the most marketable of all big-name celebrities,” based on the likelihood that her fans would use the brands she endorses. She’s also known for a killer sense of style, which Puma shoppers have happily embraced. The chunky soled “creeper” sneakers she helped create sold out immediately when they debuted in September, and then again when Puma restocked them two months later.
On Feb. 12, Rihanna also showed her Fenty x Puma clothing collection—Fenty is her surname—at New York Fashion Week, to very positive critical reviews. It was her first as Puma’s creative director, and if previous results are any indication, it could sell well, especially the sneakers.