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Super Brands

Steve Gallienne, general manager of a sport lifestyle branded division, Super-Brands COO Craig White and MD Cuan Chelin.

April/May 2012

Building on an

excellent year

With 75% sales growth, 2011 was a very good year for Super-Brands. They started 2012 by acquiring two top international brands, growing their brand portfolio to eleven. They are therefore expecting that they will again be celebrating at the end of this financial year, reports TRUDI DU TOIT. Photo: NIC DU TOIT

With two new international brands in their stable and the boost of 75% growth in sport lifestyle division sales in 2011, there is a decidedly up-beat atmosphere in the Super-Brands offices in Cape Town.

They’ve recently grown their brand portfolio by acquiring the SA distribution rights to Mizuno (excluding golf hardwear) and Skins, making them one of the biggest SA distributors of top international brands for multiple sporting codes. Mizuno and Skins now give them the opportunity to expand into the running, soccer, cycling, golf (Skins) and triathlon markets — categories that they didn’t reach through their former brands.

Over the past three years Super-Brands has grown into a multi-brand business with an annual turnover of over R200-m, distributing eleven sport lifestyle brands.

Yet, this is no corporate business, assures MD Cuan Chelin — the entrepreneurial spirit, passion and striving for excellence, characteristic of small businesses, are very much part of the company culture.

There are no rigid bureaucratic structures, people are encouraged to use their initiative and decisions are based on collaboration and discussion. They encourage the different departments to meet and share knowledge, expertise, ideas and resources, so that all the departments are aware of what is happening in the company, whether they are directly affected or not.

Members of the senior management team are present at the interview, which becomes a relaxed discussion with input from whoever is directly responsible for a function. Amongst the quips and friendly ragging, there is a serious undertone when it comes to discussing achievements.

“We have a strong passion for what we do,” says Chelin. “We are committed to be the best in all we do.”

Eleven brands

Sport lifestyle is one of the four major categories in the Super-Brands Group, headed by Chelin as MD, with Craig White second in command as operations manager. With former sales and marketing experience outside the sports industry, White had joined Super-Brands a little over three years ago when they bought the former Dunslaz Distributorship brands as the start of the sport lifestyle division.

The other divisions in the Super-Brands Group are Handicaps Network Africa, Sportingbet and the Canterbury retail stores, the latter run by retail expert Trevor Burger.

Sport lifestyle — run by Chelin as CEO and Craig White as COO — is further divided into two divisions. Canterbury, Skins and Mizuno are grouped in one division — headed by Chelin until a general manager is appointed. Steve Gallienne is general manager of the other division, which distributes the brands Dunlop, Slazenger, Karrimor, Ashaway, Swingball, Karakal, and Opro — the brands he used to distribute as a partner in the Dunslaz Distributorship.

They have taken a novel approach to the role of their agents — in-house and independent. While the two divisions are responsible for marketing and selling the brands into key accounts, the agents report to White.

This decision was taken because they want the agents to support clients by doing training, ensure that they receive their orders and that individual stores have sufficient stock, assist with merchandising, etc. In other words, agents are incentivised to optimise sell-through. Because these are more operational than sales functions, the agents report to the operations manager.

This also overcomes the problem of whom they should report to when agents are responsible for products from both divisions.

The divisional managers do the new range presentations and selling to key accounts, but regional sales agents and category specialist agents will still sell to independent retailers, especially specialists and those in outlying areas.

While replica sales leading up to the IRB World Cup towards the end of last year made a strong contribution to their exceptional 75% growth last year, they also grew well outside the world cup period, says Chelin. He attributes this to getting their internal processes right — e.g. by getting their stock holding right, going into new customers, bringing Canterbury’s team wear back in-house, etc.

They are therefore looking forward to another good year with a projected growth of 10-20%, excluding the effect of the new brands they acquired.

New brands

They are especially looking forward to developing the opportunities in the running market offered by Mizuno, a top level performance brand with a strong, loyal, international following amongst runners that appreciate their Wave technology. The brand has already been welcomed as an addition to the top end performance market by running specialist retailers.

“It is a very technical product. We believe it’s the best running shoe in the market with several awards to back it up,” says Chelin. But, with strong competition from established brands and many new entrants, he acknowledges that it is a tough market to crack. “For us it’s very much a long-term commitment, building the brand up slowly.”

Mizuno is also well-known on international soccer fields and their soccer boots are worn by players like Portugal’s Hulk, Givanildo Vieira de Souza, Japanese Footballer of the Year Keisuke Honda and Barcelona’s Thiago Motta.

The range also includes rugby boots, cross trainers, shoes for court sports like tennis, volleyball etc. Super-Brands will, however, not be distributing Mizuno golf products in SA.

Skins, the compression base layer brand will be marketed to specialist cycling, running, and watersport stores, as well as multi-sport stores catering for cricketers, hockey players, golfers, hikers and many other active people (see Base Layer article p30). It will be differentiated from the Canterbury compression garments by features and benefits, price point and target customers, says Chelin.

Canterbury offers opportunities

“The brand for which we see the most opportunities developing is Canterbury,” he adds. “We believe there is an opportunity for another sports brand to challenge the existing international sports apparel brands. Through its involvement with SA Rugby, Canterbury has established an emotional connection with many South Africans.”

They would like to build on this goodwill by growing Canterbury into a broader sport lifestyle brand, offering gym wear, training wear and general sportswear, transcending its image as primarily a rugby apparel brand. Multi-sport team wear is being revived as a major category, and Canterbury leisure shirts have been selling well for a few years.

“Our aim is to grow the equipment — boots, balls, headgear etc. — and team wear segments by 100% this year,” says Chelin.

Canterbury’s base layer and compression ranges have also been relaunched with Bryan Habana as the face of the brand.

Brands from Div 02

“This is the year we’ll turn on the volume, Slazenger’s going to be the new brand on the block,” says Gallienne, general manager of the sport lifestyle division called Div 02.

They’ve been told by retailers that they have the best Slazenger range ever, and Gallienne believes that in 2012 “with Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and other visible players, locally and internationally, representing the brand, the brand will be positioned where it needs to be,” he says (see more in cricket ranges on p50).

“Slazenger — the longest standing sponsorship in sporting history at Wimbledon, along with Dunlop, one of the world’s top tennis balls, are brands and categories we are proud to represent,” says Gallienne.

Karrimor’s hydration packs have done exceptionally well, and with co-branding opportunities with Skins in cycling and Mizuno in trail running, they are expecting even better results.

“We have had good participation from independents on Karrimor, especially with backpacks, footwear, sleeping bags and hydration packs,” says Gallienne.

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