2021 was a year full of exceptional successes for PUMA’s athletes and teams and also an excellent year for PUMA’s business. However, the year was once again marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had different consequences in different countries around the world. This forced us to react quickly to lockdowns and restrictions, especially in our supply chain. We successfully continued our strategy of working together with all of our partners to manage the short-term challenges, such as store and factory closures, without hindering our mid-term momentum.
Factories for footwear, apparel and accessories in the south of Vietnam, one of our most important sourcing countries, were closed because of strict local lockdown measures. Because of this, production was suspended for about 10 weeks, and this affected approximately 15% of our global sourcing volumes. We tried to minimize production delays as much as possible and, where feasible, we shifted production to other sourcing locations. Given the quick rollout of the vaccination program and increasing vaccination rates in Southern Vietnam, the factories gradually reopened starting at the end of September.
Throughout the year, we prioritized the health and safety of our partners, customers and employees and we rolled out vaccination programs for our employees in countries where this was possible. This is how we achieved a vaccination rate above 90% at our headquarters in Herzogenaurach already by mid-July and followed up with booster vaccinations at the end of the year. In countries that were hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic, such as India, we also assisted employees and their families in getting access to medical care when necessary.
For our efforts to provide an attractive workplace, we were named Top Employer Europe for the second time in a row.
By partnering with some of the best athletes and teams in the world, we gain credibility as a sports brand and stay true to our roots in performance, which also boosts our brand heat. We expanded our PUMA family of ambassadors with several new signings in 2021. In Teamsport, we welcomed French national team players Raphaël Varane and Kingsley Coman as well as U.S. player Christian Pulisic. NHL All-Star Leon Draisaitl became the first NHL ice hockey player to join PUMA as a brand ambassador for training and fitness. In Basketball, we signed the most valuable player in the WNBA Breanna “Stewie” Stewart as well as French NBA guard Killian Hayes. PUMA athlete LaMelo Ball, who presented his first signature shoe this year, was voted Rookie of the Year in the NBA.
The summer of 2021 was exceptional for our teams and athletes, who delivered world class performances on the track and on the pitches.
Italy’s national football team, which is sponsored by PUMA, won the UEFA Euro 2020, which was held in 2021, and with Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Giorgio Chiellini, Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Jordan Pickford we had five players wearing PUMA’s latest football boots in the final. All four PUMA federations (Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland) progressed to the knock-out stages and PUMA had three teams in the quarterfinals - more than any other sports brand.
At the Tokyo Olympics, PUMA athletes won a total of 22 Gold, 24 Silver, and 20 Bronze medals. Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm entered the history books when he won gold and set a new 400m hurdles world record in what was described as the “Best Race in Track&Field History”. For his performance, Karsten was crowned World Athlete of the Year in December. Karsten wore PUMA’s new EvoSPEED Future FASTER+ spike, which was created together with Formula 1 team MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS. Other PUMA athletes who won a gold medal in Tokyo included Canadian Sprinter Andre De Grasse (200m), pole vaulter Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi and Jamaican hurdler Hansle Parchment (110m). U.S. runner Molly Seidel wore shoes with PUMA’s latest NITRO running technology, when she took the bronze in the women’s marathon. At the Paralympic Games, PUMA’s athletes also showed a strong performance, as Cuban sprinter Omara Durand won 3 Gold medals and set a new world record.
In football, our club teams also performed at the top of their game. Manchester City won the Premier League for the third time in four years and reached the Champions League final. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund won the DFB Cup and our Brazilian team Palmeiras won the Copa Libertadores twice in a row. We also signed additional top clubs including Fenerbahce Istanbul in Turkey or Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.
In Golf, PUMA player Bryson DeChambeau won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2021, while in Motorsport, PUMA teams Mercedes AMG Petronas, Red Bull Racing Honda and Scuderia Ferrari secured the top three spots in the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the Drivers’ Championship. To celebrate his first title, PUMA gave him a special pair of golden Speedcat Pro shoes.
As both the Olympic Games and Euro2020 were delayed by a year due to the pandemic, we sought to capture the spirit of our successful athletes in 2021 and celebrate optimism and self-believe with our ONLY SEE GREAT campaign. Inspired by cultural icon, entrepreneur and philanthropist Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, PUMA ambassadors such as Boris Becker and Neymar Jr. told their story of how they achieved greatness in a series of media interviews and content on PUMA’s digital channels.
In 2021, we made a big step towards establishing PUMA as a credible running brand by launching a completely new line-up of performance running shoes made with our new cushioning technology NITRO. The DEVIATE, DEVIATE ELITE, VELOCITY, LIBERATE, and ETERNITY received very positive reviews from runners and the media alike. The success of athletes such as Molly Seidel, Nils Voigt and Precious Machele added to the new products’ appeal.
As part of our efforts to create a leading product offer for women, we launched our SHE MOVES US platform, which featured our top female brand ambassadors such as Dua Lipa, Cara Delevingne, Magdalena Eriksson and Jodie Williams to celebrate the women who have moved culture and sports forward and inspire other women around the world. The SHE MOVES US campaign also included a partnership with Women Win, an organization which organizes sports events for women and girls around the world, and founding PUMA’s own team in the W Series, the international motor racing series for female drivers.
In 2021, PUMA North America and our international marketing organization moved into their new offices in the Boston suburb of Somerville, Massachusetts. The new building offers 150,000 square feet of flexible office space. In Germany, we opened our new logistics center in Geiselwind, which was ramped up gradually in the second half of the year. We also launched new PUMA.com online stores in the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.
PUMA’s belief in the importance of local decision making was confirmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which developed at a different pace across the world. That’s why PUMA gives its local management the tools to react quickly to changes in the markets they know best.
PUMA’s reentry into basketball continued and helped us become a credible sports brand in the North American market. PUMA athlete LaMelo Ball, who won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award, created his first signature shoe with PUMA. We followed up on last year’s success of the RS-DREAMER Basketball sneaker, designed by J.Cole, with the RS-DREAMER 2. The Basketball business launched several successful collaborations this year such as with the Black Fives Foundation, cartoon series Rugrats or video game NBA 2K.
Sustainability played an important part in our strategy in 2021. With our FOREVER BETTER communications platform, we educated consumers about our sustainability efforts. To signal a move towards a more circular business model, we announced the RE:SUEDE experiment. As part of this project, we developed an experimental version of our most iconic sneaker, the SUEDE, to test whether we can make it biodegradable. As sustainability matters throughout our product range, we introduced a new shoebox design, which will save 2,800 tonnes of cardboard each year. We also became a partner of not-for-profit environmental organization Canopy and committed to protect forests around the world when sourcing paper, cardboard and viscose.
As PUMA has grown strongly over the past years, we further strengthened our organization and expanded our Board of Management from three members to four by creating the new role of Chief Commercial Officer. Arne Freundt took on this new role on June 1 and he oversees Sales, including Retail & E-Commerce, and Logistics. Also, effective June 1, 2021, Hubert Hinterseher was named as the new Chief Financial Officer, taking over from Michael Lämmermann who retired after 28 years with the company. Hubert Hinterseher is responsible for Finance, Legal, IT and Business Solutions.
Despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was an excellent financial year for PUMA. Our operational flexibility in dealing with a wide range of challenges contributed significantly to PUMA's strong sales development and financial performance in 2021. The year 2021 began with an all-time high of COVID-19 cases worldwide and continuing restrictions on our operations in numerous markets. Furthermore, supply bottlenecks caused by container shortages and port congestion had a negative impact on product availability. In addition to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, difficult market conditions in some of our key markets also had a significant impact on our business. Despite these uncertainties, in the past financial year PUMA managed to exceed € 6 billion in sales for the first time in the company's history. Currency-adjusted sales increased by 31.7%. In the reporting currency, the euro, this corresponds to an increase in sales of 30.0% from € 5,234 million in the previous year to € 6,805 million in 2021. The strong growth in sales was achieved primarily as a result of sustained brand momentum, successful product launches with high sell-through rates, and a strong focus on flexibility in our operations. PUMA thus succeeded in surpassing its sales forecast of at least 25% currency-adjusted sales growth in financial year 2021, which had already been adjusted upward during the year.
In addition to the strong sales growth, the improvement in the gross profit margin also significantly contributed to the increase in profitability in the financial year 2021. PUMA's gross profit margin increased by 90 basis points from 47.0% in the previous year to 47.9% in 2021. This was driven by better sell-through and less promotional activity. By contrast, exchange rate effects, regional and distribution channel mix effects, and cost increases for inbound freight had a negative impact on the gross profit margin development.
Other operating income and expenses increased by a total of 20.3% in the 2021 financial year. The increase was mainly due to higher marketing expenses, an increase in the number of PUMA's own retail stores, and higher sales-related distribution and warehousing costs. In addition, PUMA continued to be faced with operational inefficiencies, particularly in the supply chain, due to COVID-19. The weaker increase in other operating income and expenses compared to sales growth reflects the operating leverage achieved. As a result of continued cost control, it was possible to achieve a significant reduction in the cost ratio from 43.3% in the previous year to 40.0% in 2021. This also contributed significantly to the improvement in profitability in the 2021 financial year.
During the financial year under review, the operating result (EBIT) rose by 166.3% from € 209.2 million to € 557.1 million, thus exceeding the outlook, which had already been adjusted upward during the year to a range between € 450 million and € 500 million. Overall, the significant improvement in profitability in the 2021 financial year is attributable to the strong growth in sales combined with an improved gross profit margin and the operating leverage achieved. As a result, the EBIT margin increased from 4.0% in the previous year to 8.2% in 2021.
The significant improvement in profitability is also reflected in the development of consolidated net earnings and earnings per share, both of which improved by more than 292% compared to the previous year. Consolidated net earnings increased from € 78.9 million in the previous year to € 309.6 million, while earnings per share rose accordingly from € 0.53 in the previous year to € 2.07. As a result, PUMA was able to achieve or even outperform its financial targets in the past financial year.
The positive net earnings enable the Management Board and the Supervisory Board to propose a dividend payout of € 0.72 per share for the financial year 2021 to the Annual General Meeting on May 11, 2022. This corresponds to a payout ratio of 34.8% of consolidated net earnings according to IFRS and is in accordance with PUMA's dividend policy, which foresees a payout ratio of 25% to 35% of consolidated net earnings. In the previous year, a dividend of € 0.16 per share was paid out (payout ratio for previous year: 30.3%).
In the course of the expansion of the DAX from 30 to 40 members, PUMA's shares have been included in the stock market index of the largest companies on the German stock market since September 2021. After starting 2021 at a price of € 92.28, PUMA's share price fell to a low of € 80.42 at the end of January 2021. PUMA's share price then recovered significantly by the end of the year, rising to € 107.50 — an increase of 16.5% on the previous year. The market capitalization of the PUMA Group increased accordingly to around € 16.1 billion at year-end 2021 (previous year: € 13.8 billion).