BANGALORE: Reebok, the adidas-owned sports brand, is converting its 500-strong portfolio of Indian stores to the FitHub format as it seeks to establish itself as the nation's fitness brand.

Erick Haskell, Managing Director of Adidas India, told the Business Standard that in addition to the chain of physical stores, Reebok was "giving ecommerce a serious thought".

He explained that the brand was already "doing a fairly decent ecommerce business right now" through some of the major portals and that had made it look at the possibility of starting its own ecommerce platform.

Haskell noted the restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) that had influenced the brand's approach and said it was "dedicated" to a franchise model. He did not expect a major push into own-retail stores. But he was hopeful that ecommerce could be included in FDI reforms, so opening up a possible new avenue.

Warc has previously reported on the increasingly interdependent relationship between online retailers and consumer brands in India. Nike, for example, works with only a handful of the many online channels now available, offering them exclusive launches and promotions.

Haskell said that Reebok was differentiating itself from competitors such as Nike by looking beyond "vertical performance sports" to the wide range of activities that people typically use in their search for fitness, including gym work, yoga, dance and aerobics.

There was a particular emphasis on women's fitness - a case study on the launch of footwear product EasyTone records how Reebok achieved a tenfold increase in sales - and Haskell said that one of its Bangalore stores got almost 40% of its business from this segment. "Those are numbers we've never seen – not even anywhere else in India," he said, "but that shows us the potential is very high.

He conceded that this was an urban phenomenon, but argued that "these trends typically start from the metros and then trickle down to the other parts of the country".

The brand was currently attempting to drive community engagement with its Reebok Running Squad encouraging people to run on weekends. Haskell indicated that this had been successful in Delhi and would now be rolled out nationwide.

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff