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Under Armour in South Africa | Gary van Rooyen | Taking SA retail by storm
July 2015

Under Armour to take SA retail by storm

Internationally, Under Armour has been setting growth records and the full and extensive range of products from this brand will soon be introduced to South African retail. Sales and marketing for Under Armour South Africa will be headed by Gary van Rooyen, who has a good track record of growing local brands

Over the last few years Under Armour has been creating a retail storm worldwide: not only making waves in the US, but also gaining market share in Europe by sweeping competitors off the shelves. This tidal wave will hit South African consumers in October, when the newly formed Apollo Brands distributorship releases the full current range of Under Armour clothing, footwear and accessories to South African retailers and consumers.

Why the hype? Over the past 20 consecutive quarters (that is five years) Under Armour has been reporting global sales growth of more than 20% every quarter. In the first quarter of 2015 sales grew 25% and for the whole of 2014 the brand grew 32% ... on top of strong growth the previous four years. No wonder it is currently one of the most talked about brands in the world.

Apollo Brands’ sales and marketing director is Gary van Rooyen, who took New Balance SA from a #8 also-ran brand to the #3 running brand in South Africa in the first decade of the century, growing the South African subsidiary’s revenue 17-fold from 2001-2012. In 2013 he bought the international Coreban paddleboard brand and resigned from the footwear and clothing industry to follow his passion for watersport (for which he has national colours) — exchanging the security of a salary and perks earned as head of the subsidiary of a successful international brand for the freedom of owning and shaping the fortunes of his own brand worldwide.

But, when it became known that Under Armour was looking for a South African distributor that will match the brand’s performance in the US and Europe and with the capacity to introduce the full range of products into the market, the temptation became too big. Despite strong competition from other potential distributors, Van Rooyen and his partners were awarded the distributor rights for Southern Africa.

“The misconception by almost everyone is that Under Armour is only a compression or base layer brand,” says Van Rooyen. “The brand is extremely aggressive in every silo, with our main focus for South Africa being training, running, multi-sport and golf. The footwear division has shown huge growth internationally and has surpassed all expectations. The men’s category continues to drive the brand, but women’s and kids are showing double digit growth, year on year.”

In South Africa, Apollo Brands (Under Armour) will be run independently from Coreban. “However, my partners and I are in the process of finalising a group structure that will incorporate five companies, each running as a separate division, with a yet to be appointed CEO,” says Van Rooyen, who will act as sales and marketing director for the group. The first Apollo Brands employee is the experienced Anthony Weinberg (the former head of New Balance SA retail) who has been appointed retail and merchandising manager. His job is to introduce South African consumers to the depth and variety of the head to toe ranges the brand offers by opening an Under Armour brand house store in the Cape Town area at the end of October. This store will feature a combination of spring/summer 2015 and fall/winter 2016 ranges.

“Product will be delivered to the open market in early January 2016 and the wholesale accounts will introduce our fall/winter 2016 ranges from January onwards,” says Van Rooyen. The second Under Armour brand house store is planned for Gauteng in March 2016. Internationally, high profile teams and athletes have helped to create public awareness of the brand. Wales, Georgia and Canada will be playing in Under Armour kit in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Tottenham Hotspurs fans are wearing their replica shirts, while brand ambassadors like Brazilian model Gizelle Bündchen, golfing sensation Jordan Spieth, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, basketball star Stephen Curry and tennis player Andy Murray bring the brand to the attention of a wide range of consumers.

Locally, Under Armour was the sponsor of the South African team at the ISA World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboard Championship in Mexico in May this year. Despite competing against top international teams with paddleboard professionals as members, the amateur South African team came 7th out of 27 countries, and won a silver medal. Tarryn King came 5th in the women’s section and the South African men ended 10th to 19th out of nearly 50 participants. Van Rooyen coached the South African team.

Under Armour will also be the title sponsor of the SA SUP Championships to be held in Cape Town in July.

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