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