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Skechers hires former AVP chief Armato as CMO, eyes growth in ‘toning’ category for shoes

Former AVP Commissioner Leonard Armato has joined Skechers as chief marketing officer and president of the company’s Fitness Group. The move comes a little less than a year after Armato left the AVP following an eight-year run.

Armato has been working as a consultant to Skechers for three months, and the Manhattan Beach, Calif., company is located a short walk from Armato’s home. However, Armato said proximity was not the deciding factor.

“I worked with [Skechers founder] Robert Greenberg when he headed L.A. Gear on things like the first Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shoe and projects with Michael Jackson,” Armato said. “The opportunity to work with him again was exciting and it also seems like a perfect fit, since I’ll get to use my sports, entertainment and marketing contacts to help build a global company.”

Armato joins Skechers as the $1.4 billion brand is on an upswing. Skechers posted a 30 percent sales increase in its most recently reported quarter. Its Shape-ups are a leading part of what has been labeled the “toning” category, shoes that promise women a workout “without setting foot in a gym.” While athletic footwear sales are generally sluggish, shoes like Shape-ups and Reebok’s EasyTone, which carry price tags upward of $90, are surging. The market for toning shoes has rocketed from $17 million in 2008 to $245 million in 2009, according to research firm NPD Group. Matt Powell at SportsOneSource, Princeton, N.J., sees the toning category reaching $1 billion this year, and notes that Skechers had 66 percent of the market in 2009.

“We think the category is still beginning,” Skechers COO David Weinberg said during a February earnings call.

According to a recent SEC filing, Armato will receive 75,000 Class A Skechers shares, vesting over the next three years, as part of his compensation.

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