Lids takes the plunge abroad.
The largest physical licensed sportswear retailer is opening four stores in London this month and plans to significantly expand its reach in the UK next year.
In total, Lids plans to have 20 stores operational in the UK by the end of 2022, according to Britten Maughan, chairman of the company.
“We have a great deployment plan,” he said. “London is a natural fit for Lids. The enthusiasm for American sports and streetwear lines up with our assortment of hats and jerseys focused on the field and fashion. We are excited to bring our brand and our product to market.
The first store opened at Seven Dials in Covent Garden last Friday and the second, at 02 Peninsula Square, is expected to open in a few days. The other two units will be located in Lakeside Shopping Center in Essex and Churchill Square Russel Place Shopping Center in Brighton, which will open later this month.
The international rollout is part of a strategic growth plan put in place by majority owner of Lids, Ames Watson, a Bethseda, MD-based private equity firm that bought the company for $ 125 million at the start of 2019 in partnership with Meek Mill Partners. and Fanatics.
Lids operates nearly 2,000 stores in the United States and Canada and has ongoing relationships with Macy’s and Designer Brands, where it operates licensed team sports stores at their stores in North America. It also operates the new National Hockey League flagship in New York City as well as the National Basketball Association flagship in New York City and has annual sales of over $ 1 billion. It operates an NBA store in London’s Soho district in partnership with Fanatics, which opened in July, as well as a Paris Saint Germain store in Los Angeles.
“Lids has always been positioned as a giant in the headwear space,” said Maughan. “We have a presence in all the malls in the United States – sometimes in multiple locations – and that gives us leverage on the developers. We fundamentally disagree with the idea of the death of retail and the death of the mall.
Since its acquisition of Genesco by Ames Watson, Lids has expanded its number of stores and extended its partnerships with Macy’s and Designer Brands, he said. Lids also first launched private label hat brands and has grown significantly in swimwear and clothing.
“We were originally just hat stores, but now the eight to twelve foot walls of our stores sell jerseys and shorts, and they’ve worked really well,” he said. . Today, headwear still accounts for more than 50 percent of overall sales, followed by jerseys, which Maughan says is considered separate from clothing.
“People buy swimsuits for more fashion purposes,” he said, adding that the company has recently focused on offering more forward-thinking products by working with its long-standing suppliers to create exclusive goods that match the invoice.
The private label, which is sold under the names Local Crowns and Rings & Crwns, is more focused on outdoor or generic sports such as hunting and fishing and does not use any names or logos requiring the approval of leagues or licensees. “Right now we only do headgear, but we also have the rights to the clothes,” Maughan said.
This product will be offered in UK stores along with all top selling MLB, NFL and NBA American League products, as well as items from national brands such as Adidas, New Era Cap, ’47, Mitchell & Ness, Hurley and Oakley.
Maughan said Lids stores in New York and other major cities attracted large numbers of visitors from the UK, which led the company to decide to begin its international expansion there. “The British customer is a fan of American sports,” he said, pointing to recent baseball and football games that have been played by the major leagues in London. “And we think a lot of consumers out there are familiar with popular streetwear brands like Mitchell & Ness.” Rather than buying sport-specific parts, the UK customer should react more to colors and logos on merchandise rather than to individual teams.
He said the mix would be changed slightly but still deliver a predominantly American product, with a focus on international teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, Cowboys, Lakers, Celtics and others – teams that are “brands in themselves”, he said. noted. “We’re going to change the assortment a bit, so there will be Premier League football products, but it will be 5 percent of the assortment, not 95 percent.”
Each store will also feature personalized Lids areas, which allow consumers to embroider custom hats or clothing in-store and add player numbers and autographs.
“We want this to look like a Lids experience in the United States,” Maughan said. “There are a lot of hats sold in the UK, but there is no one dedicated to headgear. So, from day one, we are the largest headgear retailer in the market. “
Lids contracted with a third-party distributor in the UK to ship their product from there rather than the US, he noted.
Since the first store opened a week ago, Maughan said sales have exceeded plan. “And it’s without any marketing, it’s just passing traffic,” he said.
Looking ahead, he said the company plans to further expand its presence internationally, although there are no concrete plans at this time. “We are not ready to comment on the rest of Europe,” he said.
“Expanding into the UK is our top priority at Lids,” added Tom Ripley, President and CEO of Lids and Partner and Co-Founder of Ames Watson. “Lids has grown into one of North America’s most powerful retailers and we are excited to take this growth internationally as we plan to open more than 100 stand-alone Lids stores in new markets. The London-based NBA store operated by Lids has already seen great success since its official opening earlier this year, and we are delighted to introduce the standalone Lids stores to an even wider audience of UK customers.