For the Prince brand, tennis is everything.
The athletic label, founded in 1970 and bought by Authentic Brands Group in 2012, remains committed to its core sport and consumers, even while it seeks out new ways to reach them. “Every product we put out, we look at it as a long-term investment in the athlete and helping them play better tennis,” said Tyler Herring, VP of Prince.
The best example of that strategy is its streamlined performance shoe collection, consisting of the T22 sneaker, launched in 2008, and the updated T22 Lite. “In a footwear world that’s heavily driven by fashion and color turn, we’ve come in with a very solid shoe with a great fit and have been consistent for a long time,” said Herring.
The brand regularly introduces new colorways for the shoes, timed for major events such as the U.S. Open, but it has been careful not to tinker with a successful recipe. “I’ve seen competitors lose credibility in the space because they changed the last or the fit and they lost customers,” said Herring.
However, his team is looking to innovate in 2019, with new knitted materials and high-tech midsoles and outsoles.
And other changes are afoot for Prince: After spending the past few years perfecting its performance game, the brand plans to expand into the lifestyle category in late 2019 or early 2020.
Recent apparel collaborations with Dyne and Publish offered encouraging test cases for the move, according to Authentic Brands president Nick Woodhouse. “I like the idea of Prince as a one-stop shop that speaks to customers who might have bought Lacoste or Babolat or Fred Perry. That’s what we hope to see from the brand,” he said.
Prince also is making a strong international push, working with a partner in China to open its first branded retail locations. It expects to open 30 doors in the country by the end of this year. The first stores will debut in mid-July.
Woodhouse noted that in today’s climate, smart change is essential. “The biggest [challenge we have] is to figure out how to keep brands relevant and get them into the hands of consumers in the most rapid way,” he said.
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