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Nike Unveils New Footwear, Apparel Ahead Of Summer Olympics

--Nike unveils new footwear and apparel gear ahead of major international sporting events later this year --Olympic years offer Nike a big venue to launch new products --Debuted products include Nike Flyknit and Lunarlon collection of shoes By John Kell Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Nike Inc. (NKE) unveiled a slate of new footwear and apparel gear ahead of the Summer Olympics and the European Football Championships, events that are expected to boost excitement in the company's latest products. While the athletic-goods maker is constantly in a state of innovation, president of Nike Brand Charlie Denson told Dow Jones Newswires the Olympic years offers "a big venue, the big stage, and it gives us a chance to really amplify some of the things we are working on." Denson said in some cases, Nike may accelerate or slow down product innovation the company is developing, depending on where the design team is in the product cycle. The company on Tuesday debuted new yarn and fabric variations that are utilized in Nike Flyknit footwear technology. The inspiration behind the Nike Lunarlon collection of training, running and basketball shoes came from observing astronauts walking on the moon. Product launches and new innovation features, such as the Nike Free running line, Lunar shoe cushioning and the Nike+ FuelBand have helped Nike products remain relevant as consumers are cautious about spending. Nike is in the midst of a strong athletic-footwear cycle that has driven sales for more than two years, and which analysts say typically occur over a span of three to five years. The latest round of innovations are important as the technology can be used more widely in the product slate in later years. For example, Denson said Flywire and Lunar Foam technology, which were launched during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, are now in about 60% of Nike's product line. "The idea is always to be able to deliver that value to you as both an athlete and as a consumer," said Denson. "As a consumer, the premium athlete has the same desires--they want the best and they want it to enhance [their performance]." While economic uncertainty has put pressure on Nike's global customer base, the company has continued to post solid growth in footwear and apparel in most countries it serves. Nike benefits from its diverse product offerings that aren't tied to one market, price point or consumer demographic. Nike's shares hit an all-time high earlier this month and analysts have been overwhelmingly rosy about the company due to excitement about growth opportunities in China and a strong presence in the high-end footwear category. The company's stock has a stellar performance versus the S&P 500 in each of the last five Summer Olympics, up 24.5% on average according to Barclays. The company's shares closed down 1.6% to $104.95 and were inactive in after-hours trading. -By John Kell, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2480; john.kell@dowjones.com

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