Damian Cooper is looking to give fresh impetus to compression wear sports brand Skins.
Damian, is managing director of Ninety9 Teamwear and was the licensee for Under Armour Teamwear for the UK and Ireland, until they mutually terminated their agreement in March 2017 before finishing with them last October.
Following on from that they have taken over Skins Retail for the UK and Ireland and also have a ten-year licence for Skins Teamwear UK.
Skins is about performance in sport. Their compression is designed to put the right pressure in the right place to aid in performance. They are about increased blood flow, increased oxygenation of the blood, endurance and recovery. They also adopt a holistic approach in compression that allows them to also play in the adjacent category of active wear complimenting the compression range.
Damian said: “Skins Retail UK and Ireland and Skins Teamwear UK are two separate companies. Skins head office for retail is still going to be in Burton, where we have marketing, customer service and finance. On the teamwear side of the business we have finance, product, warehousing, customer services, graphic design and marketing out of our office in Cwmbran, South Wales.
“I am really excited with the opportunity on both retail and teamwear. Skins have always been known as a base layer technical compression brand so for the first time we will be taking the brand to leading clubs, schools, colleges and universities along with strategic professional teams throughout the UK and Ireland providing apparel for both on and off field.
“We also have the global licence for teamwear for Skins, so we are looking at key markets like France, Australia and the US but the focus for the next 12-18 months is going to be very much the UK and Ireland.
“We have recruited three new reps for the retail business covering Ireland, the North and Scotland and the South East of England. And my other company (Unify Brand Partnerships) will be covering Wales and the South West region.
“Altogether we have nine salespeople between the retail and the teamwear business covering the UK and Ireland. Jason Robinson, who was Sales Director in the teamwear business for Under Armour Team Sports, and previously worked for Berghaus and The North Face, is now sales director for the Skins retail business. Alan Keylock is going to be sales manager for the teamwear business.
“With Under Armour we serviced teams such as Wasps RFC, Worcester Warriors RFC and Surrey cricket as well as supporting contracts like the Welsh Rugby Union, Clermont rugby and Tottenham FC. We built up a very strong business and have a good network in place and again, we will be targeting the best schools, colleges, universities as well as amateur and professional teams. We also want to work with a retailer/reseller network throughout the UK and Ireland, who can provide Skins Teamwear within a designated territory.”
Damian is looking to push the brand and raise its profile in the UK and Ireland and develop strong links with retailers.
He said: “For the business in general what we have tried to do is reposition the brand, very much focussing on the strength of the brand – the technical compression, while now developing a more activewear collection with a focus on training and run activities.
“We are very much concentrating on the independent and specialist retailer. We genuinely believe that if we can get both companies, the retail strongly back within the specialists and then grow the brand awareness through Teamwear and working with the best schools, colleges, universities and clubs as well. It’s just going to raise the brand profile throughout the UK.”
And Damian’s approach looks to be working as interest in the brand appears to be growing.
He added: “We have had a great reaction so far, loads of interest in the brand, we have launched a new Teamwear catalogue which covers all the core sports plus customised and stock product ranges as well.
“We are really excited for 2018, we think it is a fantastic opportunity for the brand. We were at the the STAG Winter Show and we had a fantastic reaction to the brand. We reactivated a number of accounts which was fantastic and I think people believe in what we are doing and we also opened up a large number of new accounts as well.
“Over the last six months we have gone back out and re-engaged with customers that maybe haven’t seen the brand for a while, so we are excited that we have a really good opportunity in 2018. It’s looking very promising.”
And Damian also wants to make sure that all their customers feel valued and that the company is there to help and support them with a first class service.
He said: “We have invested in a large sales force because we really want to get back to old school service levels, regular meetings, event support, staff training, etc. A lot of the big brands theses days are very much focussed on holding stockrooms or showrooms meeting every quarter. We want to support the independent and specialist retailers, see them on a regular basis and make sure they are having industry best service levels.
“The feedback we are getting is great, we genuinely believe that the retailers are looking for that face to- face contact. It’s getting back to making sure the basics are covered with staff training and that in-store areas are looking really strong and that they have confidence in the regional sales manager. That they know when they contact them that they are going to get a good service. It is ticking the boxes of all the basics to make sure that we are front of mind within the retailers.
“We did some research, went out to a couple of independents and key accounts and honestly it was a bit of an eye opener that retailers are frustrated because of the lack of service provided by a number of brands.
“It is an opportunity for us, with a lot of companies going web-based with B2B, to make sure that we do our job properly and that we get in front of the retailers on a regular basis.”