..designing an authentic sportswear brand means that it has to be authentic to the sport itself.
U.S. Polo Assn., a sportswear brand, is managed by USPA Properties Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Polo Association, the non-profit governing body for the sport of Polo in the United States since 1890.
USPA Properties Inc. is the steward of the Association’s trademarks and logos worldwide, with licensees in the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia, China, Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and the Middle East.
Mr. David Cummings manages the U.S. Polo Assn. brand as the President & CEO of USPA Properties Inc. (USPAP), the licensing arm of the U.S. Polo Association (USPA). Formerly, he served as the Executive Director of the sport’s non-profit governing body until 2003.
Since taking the reins at USPA Properties, he has been instrumental in dramatic increase in annual revenues for the brand, with global retail sales totaling nearly USD 1 billion, assuring future stability and programs of the USPA.
Mr. Cummings’ professional portfolio comprises of diverse positions with Occidental Chemical, Provident Insurance, West Trails Management, Capcom Co., Wild Horse Valley Ranch and the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, and sporting events like the FIP World Championships, the Pacific Coast Open and the U.S. Open.
Mr. David Cummings in his talk with Ms. Madhu Soni – Sr. Editor & Correspondent, Face2Face, speaks on sportswear market scenario, globally.
It is a great pleasure to have a one to one with you Mr Cummings! “Polo is the King of Sports and the Sport of Kings”- how does USPA bring this rich heritage in its offerings? What niche it enjoys in sportswear market?
As the only brand that is endorsed as the official product of the U.S. Polo Association, which was founded in 1890, we have developed a brand that truly represents the heritage and tradition of the sport of Polo, not just a fashion brand. We work closely with our partners around the world to combine the authenticity of the sport with Classic American Style – comfortable and casual but still put together.
In the sportswear market, we want our brand to reflect the spirit of the sport, which is inviting and open to anyone that loves sportsmanship, competition and the specialness of being associated with the oldest equestrian sport in the world. We aim to provide high quality, classic design that is also accessible.
So, how do you see sportswear segment faring in global apparel industry?
Even during the difficult economic times of the last few years, we have seen very strong growth in our brand and this appears to be continuing. We believe this is because there will always be demand for well-designed clothing and accessories that provide great quality for the price and, importantly, represent more than just an item of clothing. The U.S. Polo Assn. brand brings the authentic heritage of the game to everyone.
That’s good but hasn’t the sport lost its interest to Cricket- I mean with fade of monarchism, the sport too has lost its ground to other international sports; in this context hasn’t USPA restricted its brand identity to sport of Polo only?
We believe the future of Polo lies in raising awareness through education and participation; encouraging greater numbers of people to embrace the sport with the same excitement as those before them. The sport of Polo is an inclusive environment where everyone can participate and enjoy its rich history. Through our business and relationship with the U.S. Polo Association, we hope to expose more people to this amazing sport.
Profits generated by the sales of our branded clothing and accessories go directly to support the U.S. Polo Association and its various education and support programs, such as Team USPA, which provides young talented players with coaching and competition opportunities to develop the next generation of players.
And, what does it take to design a sportswear brand? How is its marketing strategy different to that of other conventional clothing?
To me, designing an authentic sportswear brand means that it has to be authentic to the sport itself. Our clothing and accessories represent the spirit and traditions of Polo: classic, comfortable, sporty yet well-dressed, high quality yet accessible.
Our marketing strategy also must reflect our authenticity. As we say in our most recent ad campaign, “Before fashion, Polo was a sport.” Our stores have equipment, memorabilia and images from actual polo matches; the people that appear on our website and in our campaigns are actual Polo players. Everything we do and say must reflect the core values of the sport.
Have you seen any impacts on your clothing sector with the U.S. losing its economic strength slowly?
We continue to see strong sales growth and demand for U.S. Polo Assn. branded products around the world. Sales for the company have grown between 19-20% for four consecutive years and we expect that retail sales will reach USD1 billion this year. We currently have 235 outlets worldwide, and this could double over the next five years.
You have been recently increasing efforts to spread across the Asian belt, isn’t it? May we request the rationale and the game plan to crack the mallet against the Asian ball?
We are extremely excited and gratified that so many people in Asia appreciate the design and heritage of our brand and the sport. We work with leading local manufacturers with local expertise to ensure that U.S. Polo Assn. branded products in each region meet the specific needs of local customers. Our partners in Asia are continuing to open new stores across the region to meet the strong demand in these markets.
As a retailer with presence in over 100 countries, how do you assign importance to logistics and distribution-led processes in success of your brands? What all challenges come across a garment piece while reaching its consumer?
We collaborate with leading licensees in each region with local expertise and experience to meet the specific needs within respective geography, and provide the best consumer experience. We maintain very close relationships with our licensees to ensure we provide the best quality products and service, and to make sure our basic operating and business principles are met everywhere our products are sold.
Lastly, what is your say about the level of awareness amongst manufacturers towards ethical and environment-friendly production? How are consumer preferences and buying behaviors shaping on sustainability frame? How do retailers like your group (affiliated to association) contribute in giving back to community?
At the brand management level, our entire business model is built around giving back to our community. All of our profits go to the U.S. Polo Association to support its mentoring and training programs.
Regarding manufacturing, each of our licensees is responsible for producing products in their territory. Our licensees are professionals with extensive experience in production for their regions and can respond to the preferences and buying behaviors of their customers in terms of sustainability and giving back to the local communities in which they operate.