Adidas is building a “Speedfactory” in Atlanta to bring “unprecedented” sneaker customization to Americans

Adidas is focused on speed.
Adidas is focused on speed.
Image: Adidas
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Adidas is bringing some new manufacturing to the US.

The German sneaker and apparel company announced today (Aug. 10) that it plans to have a new ”Speedfactory” up and fully functional in the Atlanta, Georgia, area by the end of 2017. The aim is to bring Adidas products to US customers as quickly as possible, and Adidas says the factory will also allow it ”unprecedented” customization opportunities beyond what it currently offers.

An Adidas spokesperson said it’s too early to expand on what, exactly, that means, but did offer some hint. ”We could potentially create a shoe that’s completely tailored to the exact shape/size of a consumer’s foot combined with their aesthetic wants,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

Adidas, which debuted its robot-staffed “Speedfactory” in Germany last year, believes decentralizing production and building factories closer to its major consumer markets will let it react more quickly to demand. “Equipped with cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, the U.S. factory enables adidas to create products in increasingly high volumes with advanced complexity in color, materials and sizes,” it said in the press release.

Customization is one of the latest battlegrounds Adidas and other sneaker makers have focused on to win customers. (Millennials, for instance, are known to highly value it.) Last year Adidas introduced 3D-printed sneaker midsoles that offer a custom fit, and Nike’s COO has hinted at a future when shoppers might be able to customize a sneaker and 3D-print it at a Nike store. The e-commerce site Farfetch and footwear label Swear launched a customization program for luxury sneakers in October that lets customers choose different silhouettes and high-end materials.

The US factory also shows that Adidas plans to keep fighting for ground in the important US market. After struggling in the US against Nike and Under Armour, Adidas is surging right now. Its classic sneakers keep finding new customers, and sales jumped 26% (pdf) in the most recent quarter. “We’ve changed our business in America,” Mark King, the brand’s North America president, said in a statement after the earnings. “We’re reinventing designs, focusing marketing and innovating operations to connect more closely with consumers. There’s a new kind of energy here.”

Adidas’s goal for its US factory is to produce 50,000 pairs of sneakers, primarily running footwear, in the back half of 2017, but in the mid-term it aims to manufacture 500,000 pairs of shoes for running and other activities. It is expected to create around 160 jobs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Adidas’ US “Speedfactory” would involve robotic manufacturing like its “Speedfactory” in German. It will not. Adidas uses the term to refer to decentralized factories it can use to supply the local market quickly.