Crustaceans and crash helmets provide the inspiration for a new footwear direction from sportswear specialists Puma.

Global director of brand management, Tony Bertone, explains that his company's latest alternative to the trainer, an all moulded plastic shoe, is designed to have "a hard outer shell but be soft within," and that the aim is to give the wearer the same sense of "protection from harm that a motorcyclist experiences when he dons a helmet."

"Puma will of course continue to produce conventional trainers," Bertone promises.

However he hints that the British market for such footwear is fast reaching maturity, if not actually saturation - hence the need for a new direction. Puma's own research indicates that UK sales of trainers now top 50 million pairs a year, and that one in every two Britons already owns at least one pair of trainers.

The company has also announced that early in 2002 it will be making its first foray into the slipper market with a style so flexible that it will be packaged folded in half.

Puma went public with its plans on UK TV yesterday in a documentary filmed at its Boston headquarters covering the development of these new lines from drawing board to the arrival of the first prototypes from Taiwan for display to the Puma sales force.

For it is only after sales representatives from each of the countries in which Puma regularly does business have given their approval that any new line is given the green light for commercial launch.

To pass into full-scale production, the line must be considered capable of generating a minimum of 20,000 firm orders.

By Sonia Roberts.

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