Business, Economics and Jobs

Is Under Armour ready to take Nike head on?


A detail shot of Under Armour cleats, the official footwear supplier for Major League Baseball, photographed on Dec. 19, 2012, in New York City. A new 8,000 square foot store in Baltimore is a key part of Under Armour's new marketing push for 2013.


Steven Freeman

BALTIMORE — The message from Under Armour has gone from "Will you protect this house?" to "I Will."

The company is beginning 2013 with a new marketing campaign and a renewed effort to make headway in sales beyond apparel for men, namely shoes and women. Both have been weaker segments for Under Armour, but they are seen as huge growth opportunities.

Perhaps for investors, the shift in motto describes the next phase in the company's development: From disruptive growth company to global retail machine ready to take Nike head on.

A new 8,000 square foot store in Baltimore is part of this new push in the new year. Under Armour does have other stores but they are mainly stores-within-stores, including locations at Dick's Sporting Goods, Macy's or in malls.

The stand-alone store right in the company's backyard will serve as a test lab of sorts as the company tries to expand its direct-to-consumer sales.

Under Armour is at a critical stage right now. It's been public for more than seven years and continues to grow revenue at the pace of 20 percent per quarter.

But it is still very much an apparel company, with apparel accounting for 75 percent of the company's revenue. Whereas rival Nike derives billions from its footwear division.

Under Armour's shoe business accounts for less that 15 percent of its revenue.

In this new Baltimore store, which opens to the public on Saturday, shoes are everywhere. It's a selection not found anywhere in the world.

Less than 10 percent of Under Armour revenue comes from outside North America. Believe it or not, the Baltimore store could be part of that strategy as well. If it produces solid sales with its stand-alone presence, it could be the template for moving outside US borders.

But even with all of the challenges facing the company as it tries to move beyond its early stage growth — and the stock's under-performance during the recent rally — sales have still doubled since 2010.

Those are difficult numbers to criticize.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @bshactman

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