Ahead of the game: Andy Long on gaining a competitive edge in 2019

2018 was a year of transformation for Pentland Brands and in 2019 our mission is to make our brands matter to more people. We spoke to Andy Long, CEO at Pentland Brands, about his ambitions for a year that’s already promising political uncertainty, fluctuating markets and rapid changes in the retail industry.

  1. 2018 was a big year for Pentland Brands, in terms of new acquisitions, brand directors and sponsorships. What can we look forward to in 2019?

2019 will be really exciting for two big reasons. Firstly, we’re now settled into an integrated way of working and set up to add new brands easily. It took us time to get an acquisition team up and running, but now we’re adding new brands and footwear licenses to the portfolio and having lots of really positive conversations about new brands.

Secondly, following a year of business transformation in 2018, we’re now set up to work as the best of Pentland, whether that’s through our integrated customer and supply teams or our increased focus on brand positioning and marketing.

In 2019 we’ll see the benefits of the changes we went through in 2018 and further grow our brands with our retail partners and also across our digital channels.

  1. Last year, Pentland Brands acquired Endura and signed a footwear license for Karen Millen. How are you planning to grow these brands in 2019?

Karen Millen partnered with us because of our footwear expertise and strong customer management. Our first Karen Millen footwear collection, launched to retail partners in December, has received a fantastic reaction, so we’re confident that we can grow the footwear category for the brand.

Endura is now fully embedded into our commercial structure and we’re seeing growth from both current and new opportunities with Pentland Brands customers. For example, we recently developed a single customer plan for a major European retailer who’s now agreed a partnership to grow the Berghaus, Speedo, ellesse and Endura brands.

Innovation is also a key element for Endura. The brand recently used the Speedo Aqualab 3D technologies to develop a new cycling helmet and in 2019, Endura will continue to work with our innovation teams to realise the benefits of collaborating in this area.

In 2019 we’ll also continue to partner across the brand portfolio, including Endura, to consolidate our supply chain, which will increase our sourcing quality and competitiveness.

  1. What will be the biggest market challenges in 2019? How will Pentland Brands manage these?

We’re coming into 2019 with lots of uncertainty in different places around the world. In the UK and Europe, the sooner we see Brexit resolved the better, so we know what we need to do to be successful. We’ve been working hard since the referendum result in 2016 on preparing our business for various outcomes; we just want to know which one we need to put into action.

The US is still the world’s largest consumer economy and we’re currently underrepresented in the market. This means we have some great opportunities to build our US business, particularly with our SeaVees and ellesse brands.

In China, although economic growth has slowed a bit, our business is still at a point where we’re building credibility and market share, so there’s much to be optimistic about.

Within the retail sector, consumers continue to become more focused on choice, value and speed and there’s an increasing differentiation between the winners and those left behind.  The key will be in continually offering meaningful brands and products and making them available to consumers at the right time and in the right place.

  1. You talk about ‘good business is good for business’. What are Pentland Brands corporate responsibility objectives for 2019?

The biggest thing for us is to accelerate our product sustainability. We’re looking at this across every stage of the product lifecycle, from sourcing raw materials, to design, production and use. This includes working to find innovations for the materials of tomorrow, reducing the environmental impacts of the materials and processes used to make our products and protecting the human rights of those within our supply chain.

  1. How do you believe increasing the sustainability of our products will make them more appealing to consumers?

While there’s sometimes a disconnect between what consumers say they want and what they actually do, they’re becoming more knowledgeable about how and where their products are made, and we expect the demand for sustainable products to increase over time.

It’s becoming the expectation of businesses and we want to be future facing; that’s why our teams are increasing the focus on sustainability as part of the product development process.

  1. You talk about ‘making brands matter to more people’ – what do you mean by that?

It’s about making sure our brands connect to the consumer with an emotional purpose. It goes beyond a black jacket; it’s about having a black jacket that consumers know will keep them dry in the rain because it’s a Berghaus jacket. It’s about a Speedo swimsuit that makes them feel good in the pool or a Canterbury rugby shirt that’s worn with pride and holds up on the toughest rugby field.

And it’s a pair of Kickers shoes worn on the first day at school then lasts the whole year, or a beautiful pair of Karen Millen shoes perfect for a friend’s wedding or an important job interview. That what we mean by ‘making brands that matter’.

  1. How would you describe the culture and business to someone interested in working for Pentland Brands?

We’re a family-owned business so we can take long term decisions and we recognise the benefits of having a great culture and team. What makes us special is that we care about people and we believe in the power of the collective.

  1. Where do you see the Pentland Brands business in 2020?

I see us confidently growing our brand portfolio, owned and licensed, and delivering great results across our priority international markets and digital platforms.


Quick responses

  • What was the biggest thing you personally achieved in 2018?

The acquisition of Endura, our first active brand acquisition in six years.

  • What have you learnt this year about both the business and your role in it?

However hard you think change is going to be, it’s much tougher and there’s no substitute to talking directly to teams.

  • What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in 2018?

Maintaining team energy and excitement when trading conditions were tough.

  • What are you most excited about going into 2019?

Seeing the changes and transformation we made in 2018 come to fruition.

  • If you could help the business achieve success one area in 2019, what would it be?

Making sure, as a business, we’re moving ever closer to the pace of the consumer.