Cham­pi­ons’ League

With the brand rid­ing high, shoes are play­ing a star­ring role.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By Erin E. Clack

BBC is mak­ing a huge state­ment with the re­launch of Cham­pion shoes.

On the cusp of its mile­stone 100th an­niver­sary, Cham­pion is re­boot­ing its life­style footwear busi­ness — and the early re­sults have been ro­bust.

Un­der li­cens­ing part­ner BBC In­ter­na­tional, the iconic sports­wear brand, a di­vi­sion of Hanes­brands Inc., kicked off the launch for back-to-school with the roll­out of a sporty C-logo slide san­dal (priced at $35). Two sneaker styles — the Rally Pro knit and mesh mid­top and the 93Eigh­teen clas­sic jog­ger ($70-$100) — quickly fol­lowed.

Sell-throughs have so far sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions as Cham­pion rides a come­back wave amid strong de­mand for nos­tal­gic her­itage brands, ac­cord­ing to Seth Camp­bell, BBC’s SVP of busi­ness devel­op­ment. “We know the brand is hot­ter than ever in ap­parel, but we’re even sur­prised by how well the shoes are per­form­ing,” he said. “The busi­ness is off to a tremen­dous start — we had prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant slide in the mar­ket for back-to-school — and we’re ex­cited about what it can ul­ti­mately be­come.”

Matt Water­man, VP and GM of Cham­pion Ath­let­icwear, said the goal is to cre­ate footwear that con­nects with the brand’s cloth­ing sto­ries. “We want to of­fer our con­sumers a head-to-toe ex­pe­ri­ence with shoes that tie back to what we’re do­ing on the ap­parel side. We’re in the very ini­tial stages of this, but BBC has done a fan­tas­tic job of dig­ging into our brand DNA and trans­lat­ing that to the footwear.”

The col­lec­tion is be­ing stocked by a range of re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing Foot Locker, Fin­ish Line, DTLR, Jimmy Jazz, PacSun, Zu­miez and Ur­ban Out­fit­ters. Foot Locker will ex­clu­sively de­but the tod­dler and kids’ col­lec­tion for hol­i­day, to be fol­lowed by a broader re­tail roll­out for spring ’19.

At DTLR, the shoes have been a big hit with cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing to EVP and GMM Todd Kirssin. “When I first saw the line, I was all-in and told our buy­ers [it should be in] all doors — that this wasn’t go­ing to be a test,” he said. “So far, our big bet has paid off, and the shoes have per­formed well above our ex­pec­ta­tions.”

“There are many dif­fer­ent ar­eas that Cham­pion can play in, whether it’s out­door or per­for­mance or retro bas­ket­ball.” — Seth Camp­bell

Kirssin added that BBC’s de­signs per­fectly cap­ture the spirit of Cham­pion’s cloth­ing with sig­na­ture de­tails such as ca­ble stitch­ing and clas­sic che­nille lo­gos. “To be rel­e­vant in footwear right now with our con­sumer, you need to have co­or­di­nat­ing ap­parel. Cham­pion’s tees, track suits and jack­ets are killing it right now. The en­tire line is su­per-fresh and ties in great with the ’90s trend,” he said.

The footwear launch caps off a ban­ner year for Cham­pion, whose U.S. sales surged by more than 70 per­cent (out­side the mass chan­nel) in the sec­ond quar­ter alone. The brand gen­er­ated ma­jor buzz with a se­ries of high-pro­file col­lab­o­ra­tions with la­bels in­clud­ing Car­rots, End., Piet, Wood Wood and Kith.

In ad­di­tion, Cham­pion opened its first U.S. re­tail stores in Los An­ge­les, New York and Chicago, with a fourth lo­ca­tion slated to de­but in Bos­ton this month. The shops fea­ture ex­clu­sive prod­uct of­fer­ings and an on­site cus­tomiza­tion ser­vice al­low­ing shop­pers to de­sign one-of-a-kind pieces.

“We’ve also come to­gether as a global brand within the last two years, reac­quir­ing Cham­pion Europe and re-en­gag­ing with our Asia part­ner,” Water­man noted. “We like to say we’re a 100-yearold startup — we feel like we’re just get­ting started. We have that men­tal­ity of be­ing scrappy and try­ing to find our way in this su­per-com­pet­i­tive busi­ness while stay­ing true to who we are.”

All of the ex­pan­sion has Hanes ex­ec­u­tives feel­ing bullish about the brand’s po­ten­tial. The Win­ston-Salem, N.C.-based com­pany re­vealed dur­ing its most re­cent earn­ings call in Au­gust that Cham­pion is on a tra­jec­tory to top $2 bil­lion in global sales by 2022.

To cap­i­tal­ize on that mo­men­tum in footwear, BBC plans to in­tro­duce ad­di­tional cat­e­gories in step with the evo­lu­tion of the ap­parel col­lec­tion. “Wher­ever the brand goes, we will fol­low in footwear,” Camp­bell said. “There are so many dif­fer­ent ar­eas that Cham­pion can play in, whether it’s out­door or per­for­mance or retro bas­ket­ball.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tions are also on the draw­ing board, but Camp­bell said his team wants to first es­tab­lish the footwear col­lec­tion on its own strengths. “We don’t want to val­i­date the cat­e­gory with a col­lab­o­ra­tion and have that pi­geon­hole us,” he ex­plained.

Next year, to mark its cen­ten­nial, the la­bel is plan­ning spe­cial cam­paigns as well as a Cham­pion 100 cap­sule col­lec­tion high­light­ing the brand’s sto­ried his­tory and vi­sion for the fu­ture — one that Camp­bell said is rife with op­por­tu­nity. “Ob­vi­ously, ’90s brands are work­ing right now, but we be­lieve Cham­pion is a brand that will en­dure long past this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in fash­ion,” he said.

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