Puma, the German sportswear giant, is betting big on Africa’s young and fast-growing market. The company has seen remarkable growth in sales and popularity on the continent, thanks to its strategy of tapping into the trends of casualization and social responsibility that appeal to Gen Z consumers. However, some analysts warn that the rise of laziness and decline in physical activity among the global population could pose a threat to the sportswear industry in the long run.
Puma’s Success in Africa
Puma has more than tripled its revenue in Africa between 2020 and 2023, increasing sales by 228%. The EMEA region, which includes Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is Puma’s biggest and fastest-growing market, making up about 44% of the group’s sales last year.
One of the main drivers of Puma’s success in Africa is soccer, the most popular sport on the continent. Puma has partnered with the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the governing body of African soccer, and sponsors several national teams, such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Egypt, and Ghana. The replica shirts of these teams are among the group’s best-selling products.
Puma also leverages its brand partnerships and pop-up stores to reach out to the young and fashion-savvy consumers in Africa. For instance, Puma launched a collaboration with Grammy-nominated Nigerian artist Davido, who has a huge fan base on the continent and beyond. The partnership aims to find the intersection between sportswear and music and to showcase Puma’s products creatively and authentically.
The Appeal of Casualization and Social Responsibility
Puma’s secret weapon in Africa might be the continent’s extremely young median age. The median age across Africa is 19, according to a Wilson Center analysis of the CIA’s factbook on countries. This means that Africa has a large share of Gen Zers, the cohort born between 1997 and 2010, who are the most diverse, educated, and tech-savvy generation in human history.
Gen Zers are also the most interested in sports and sportswear, not only for active purposes but also for casual and lifestyle occasions. This trend, known as casualization, is Puma’s biggest business driver, as it expands the market potential and the occasions of use for its products.
Gen Zers also expect their brands to reflect their values and to support their causes. They are more likely to choose companies and products that celebrate their differences and address the issues they care about, such as climate change, sexism, and income inequality. They are also more willing to take action and protest against companies that do not meet their standards.
Puma has been responsive to these expectations and has positioned itself as a socially responsible and environmentally friendly brand. Puma has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030 and to sourcing 100% of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2025. Puma has also launched initiatives to promote gender equality, diversity, and inclusion, such as the She Moves Us campaign, which celebrates women who have made an impact in sports and culture.
The Challenge of Laziness and Inactivity
However, not everything is rosy for Puma and the sportswear industry. Some analysts warn that the rise of laziness and the decline of physical activity among the global population could pose a serious challenge to the demand for and relevance of sportswear in the future.
According to the World Health Organization, more than a quarter of the world’s adults, or 1.4 billion people, do not get enough exercise. This increases the risk of various diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated this problem, as lockdowns and social distancing have limited the opportunities and motivation for people to exercise.
Puma has acknowledged this challenge and blamed the return-to-office (RTO) trend for its lower apparel sales in the third quarter of 2023. Puma’s CEO, Bjorn Gulden, said that as people go back to work, they tend to dress more formally and less casually, which affects the demand for athleisure products.
Puma has also tried to encourage and inspire people to stay active and healthy by offering online fitness classes, launching fitness apps, and partnering with influencers and celebrities who promote wellness and fitness. Puma hopes that these efforts will help sustain and grow its customer base and maintain its competitive edge in the sportswear market.