Champion continues to expand its retail footprint.
The buzzy brand will open its second U.S. store at 434 Broadway at Howard Street in SoHo on Aug. 25.
The store, which is just under 5,000 square feet, is significantly larger than a 1,300-square-foot unit that opened on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles in April.
“Frankly, we weren’t sure what to expect, but we’re very happy with La Brea,” said Matthew Waterman, general manager of Champion. “Our partners in Asia and Europe have been doing full-price stores for some time, but it’s new for us in the U.S.”
Internationally, Champion operates more than 165 stores in Europe — a mix of premium and sporting goods stores — and more than 25 premium units in Japan.
“We’re taking what we learned in Los Angeles and, in typical New York style, doing it bigger,” Waterman added. That translates into a larger customization area — which has proven to be quite popular in L.A. — more activations and even a permanent dedicated archive to the brand which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.
“We’re in a historical building that was an old bank,” Waterman said. “It has an actual working vault in the back. So we thought, what better way to use that than to show our rich archive.”
In addition to archival pieces, the store will showcase the entire breadth of the Champion assortment including a rotating offering of pieces from its European and Asian collections. Product from its longtime collaboration with Todd Snyder is also expected to be offered, potentially as “a capsule,” Waterman said.
What will be permanent will be an entire area devoted to Champion’s “signature franchise,” Waterman said, its trademark Reverse Weave sweatshirts, hoodies, pants and shorts, which are the company’s number-one seller. There will also be seasonal collection and the large customization zone. Product local to the New York market will also be part of the mix. “It’ll be the entire world of Champion,” he said. “But we want to be part of the community and offer something unique and special for locals as well as tourists.”
The brand was founded in Rochester, N.Y., and has always looked at New York as “a home base,” although it is now owned by the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Hanesbrands. “It’s almost like coming home to us,” Waterman said.
The company looked all over the city before deciding to open in SoHo. “The New York landscape is unlike any in the entire world,” he said. “And SoHo just felt like the right place for us.”
Champion got a taste of New York retail when it collaborated with Snyder on City Gym, a pop-up that was so popular it stayed open for one and a half years. “That was a big success so we knew there was an appetite for that in New York,” Waterman said.
“We have a lot of consumers in the New York area who will appreciate the direct connection we will make with them in this store,” added David Robertson, director of Champion Brand Marketing. “It’s a natural place for us.”
They are not concerned about the struggles that many retailers in New York are currently facing and expect the store to offer a compelling enough reason to draw people in to shop. “This is a way to directly engage with consumers in a way we can’t do through wholesale,” Waterman said. “As we’re entering our 100th year, we want to showcase the brand in a way we can’t do anywhere else.”
Although approaching its century mark in business, Champion has found new life thanks to its popularity with streetwear fans and young people seeking heritage labels.
In May, Hanesbrands reported that Champion’s sales rose 22 percent in the first quarter, driven by “a strong Millennial consumer base.”
As a result, Champion will continue to expand its retail reach and will open its third store on North Milwaukee in Chicago next month, Robertson said. “We are not going to try to be in every city and country in the world,” he said. “We’re being really selective, and there are not any other locations I can share now, but there will be more to come.”
Champion’s focus on retail is unrelated to the news that Target will no longer carry the C9 collection after 2020. The line has been on the floor for 15 years and represents about $380 million in sales.
And the Champion retail rollout is not intended to replace that business, Robertson said. “That was never the original intent. We’re growing the Champion brand globally and we have found that the consumer is choosing Champion — and that’s rewarding and humbling. So we will continue to expand the brand in different ways.”