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Champion to stage UK comeback after two-year break

Italian sportswear brand Champion is returning to the UK after a two-year absence and is also seeking its first British standalone store.

Champion has secured 30 stockists for its autumn 14 menswear collection, including Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Mr Porter, and will roll out to others including The Shop at Bluebird and The Great Divide for spring 15.

It is also looking for stores of between 1,000 sq ft and 2,000 sq ft in London’s Soho and Manchester.

Champion was last stocked in the UK in 2012 by the now-defunct JJB Sports. It has since focused on Europe, where it has 3,700 wholesale accounts and 200 stores in countries including Italy and Spain.

European sales manager Chris Haggarty told Drapers the brand was pursuing an upmarket positioning to compete with the revival of heritage footwear brands like New Balance on the back of “consumer demand”.

Champion is also targeting a younger demographic “who want premium-level, niche sportswear” through multiples such as Urban Outfitters, with whom it is in talks.

Wholesale prices for its autumn 14 mainline range from £14.50 for a cotton T-shirt to £45 for a hoodie. Designs will be based on its 1990s archive. “We’ve seen a resurgence of 1990s fashion in sportswear,” said Haggarty. “Champion was so strong in those days, and the consumer that grew up with the brand is now interested in us again.”

A men’s capsule collection in collaboration with US designer Todd Snyder will be launched for autumn 14, with wholesale prices from £18 for a T-shirt to £203 for a navy leather varsity jacket.

Although no location has been identified for Champion’s first UK store, which will solely stock menswear, Haggarty said he aimed to have a retail presence by spring 2015. “We looked at Shoreditch in London too, but it doesn’t have Soho’s footfall,” he added. “It’s about balancing the cost of these shops versus footfall.”

Depending on the success of its launch, Champion could roll out its womenswear lines to the UK next year.

Champion has been raising its profile with wholesalers by exhibiting at trade shows since January. It attended Berlin’s Capsule and Seek earlier this month and will exhibit at Jacket Required in London next week.

 

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