We chat with divisional manager Jo Holding about the brand’s new focus on sustainability and supporting social causes. Inside Retail: How has the pandemic impacted Champion operationally? Jo Holding: There wouldn’t be a business in apparel that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic and how and why consumers are shopping. In the first national lockdown, we chose to close all our bricks-and-mortar doors across the whole network, and again with the second wave in Victoria [up until
[up until recently] Keeping our staff and consumers safe remains the utmost priority of the Champion brand. The upside to trading this year has been the very strong growth of our online store throughout the whole year. Consumer demand for hoodies and trackies in 2020 has never been stronger, and we are very lucky that this is the core of our brand, and that we are able to continue to supply our product safely via the online store. We have worked closely with our strategic suppliers to meet the needs of our consumers during this time. As many people we have talked to this year, the need for businesses to pivot – to zig and zag in response to consumer demand – will remain an operational focus for Champion as we continue to navigate this unprecedented trading environment. IR: What are some interesting customer insights that you’ve gathered in the past few months since the pandemic? JH: Consumers’ demand for street comfort in both a physical and emotional sense has been incredible to see grow, and as a brand that has always delivered street comfort as part of our core value proposition, we are grateful to be well positioned in this segment of the apparel market. We have also observed citizens within our brand community support and connect with many important social themes, including sustainability (via the Champion x Reborn upcycling collab and Re:bound range). This has increased our confidence in future projects that represent these emerging values of youth culture that we will continue to represent as a brand. IR: Champion is an iconic sportswear brand, but lately, the market seems to be flooded with new brands. How would you describe the sportswear market at the moment? JH: The sportswear market broadly is strong at the moment, it represents a huge part of what people are wearing at home to work, study and live. Yes, there is lots of competition in the sportswear segment, but the confidence consumers have shown Champion is strong, in all regions of the world that we operate in. Consumers love and celebrate our heritage with us. Having survived and thrived for over 100 years now, Champion is in a strong position to navigate the peaks and troughs of these very challenging trading conditions. We are very fortunate to be supported in our business with a world-class supply and operations network; this has no doubt been our strength in supporting our consumers this year. Champion is focused on sustainability in the future. Image: Supplied IR: Champion has done some great collaborations with social enterprises like Homie in the past. Can you tell me about the business’s work in that kind of space? JH: Homie is an incredible organisation that Champion is proud to support in their mission to reduce stigma around homelessness and hardship. Champion has been a proud supporter of the Homie Pathway Alliance program, which supports job placement for the interns coming through this program. We have also worked with Homie on a collaboration with their sub-brand Reborn, providing Champion samples for upcycling and reselling. This project not only generated much-needed funds for the Homie cause, but it also really put the Reborn brand on the global map as a serious player in the upcycling segment. We provided [them with] a globally known brand as a canvas, if you like, and Reborn provided the next layer of aesthetic, grit and authenticity. Consumers absolutely loved it, and there were sell-outs within 15 minutes of launch for both online events. We are so proud of and inspired by this relationship, a true big brother/little brother bond. We will continue to support the Homie mission in all ways with can, leveraging both front- and back-of-house aspects of our partnership. IR: What plans do you have for Champion both in Australia and overseas? JH: Future plans for Champion will absolutely remain focused on recognising the youth values that our brand can bring to life through both our product and our community communications. Champion is on a really exciting path to unlocking more sustainable strategies that consumers want to be part of, and we are confident this is setting us up to remain relevant and desired into the next 100 years.