Chirag Patel on his learnings in 2020 and optimism for 2021

While 2021 has not been the start any of us were looking for, our CEO, Chirag Patel, sees good reasons
to be positive about what the year ahead may bring. We spoke to Chirag about his optimism for 2021 and how he’s taken learnings from 2020 to help build this years’ Pentland Brands Gameplan.

How are you feeling about the year ahead?

“Despite the tricky start, I’m feeling optimistic about 2021. It feels different to 2020. We now have some countries starting to roll out vaccination programmes and we’re starting to see a way out of the pandemic. The Brexit agreement gives us clarity on how we’re going to trade between the UK and Europe. And, following our strategic review and restructure last year, we’re now a leaner and more cohesive organisation that’s able to flex and respond to rapid change and capitalise on new opportunities.”

 What is your focus in Q1?

“While the first quarter of 2021 is going to be bumpy, as a global business it’s going to impact our organisation, people and partners in different ways.

“Further lockdowns across much of Europe and the US means the biggest short-term challenges are office and store closures, travel restrictions and the cancellation of sports.  Across Asia Pacific the picture is different as retail is operating with relatively few disruptions.

“First and foremost, we’re focused on supporting our employees so they can adapt and flex their working patterns to fit around their personal needs, be it home schooling, taking care of family members or just taking time out during the day to get some fresh air and exercise.

“We’re also focused on servicing the retail channels that continue to trade, particularly online channels, and making sure our brand communications are pivoting to reflect the changing situation our consumers are facing.”

 What learnings from 2020 are you taking into 2021?

“2020 saw our people come together like never before, breaking down silos to focus solely on winning with consumers. The way everyone, across the business, pulled together was unprecedented and impressive.

“We’ve realised we can work at a new level. We’ve increased the pace, energy and agility in responding to what’s happening and we can’t lose that. We now need to keep that mindset and have the business processes to support it.

“We’ve learned that our office-based employees have seen the benefits of working from home, but also realised how important the workplace is in driving new ideas and collaboration. We’re a creative business, building brands that matter in people lives, and this is a creative process that is brought to life by being together.”

What are your top priorities in 2021 and what will success look like?

“We’ll continue to focus on successfully navigating the short-term challenges but will also focus on our goal of being a positive business as it relates to people and our planet. We’ll also make sure we’re driving demand with our consumers and being increasingly confident in the way we go out to bring new fans into the brands. This includes navigating the changing retail landscape to make sure we’re working with the right partners to get in front of our consumers.

“For me, success in 2021 will be the new Pentland Brands Executive team working at their best and supporting our teams in delivering our 2021 Gameplan. This includes the integration of the Speedo North America business into our global operations model.”

What can we expect to see from the brands in 2021?

“Under the direction of Penny Herriman, our new Chief Marketing Officer for Pentland Brands, and the brand leadership of Kev McFadyen, our new Global Brand Director for Speedo, I’m excited to see the next stage in the growth of Speedo.

“At present, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are still planned for July and August. It’s a once in an every four-years’ opportunity where all eyes are on the pool, so it will be an amazing opportunity to excite, engage and energise our swim consumers.

“The British & Irish Lions tour is also going to be a huge moment for Canterbury. Whether it happens this year or not, it’s a partnership we’re incredibly proud to have because the ‘unity and togetherness’ of the Lions resonates so well with the values of the Canterbury brand.

“I’m also really excited about the growth we’re seeing across ellesse, Berghaus and Endura and I’m looking forward to seeing how our teams will build on this in 2021.”

 What were your personal learnings from 2020?

“I learnt that you can’t control what you can’t control. We have to adjust and accept the things we can’t change and focus on the things we can.”

What are the brand highlights from 2020?

“The resilience of the Berghaus and Endura brands was impressive. With people spending more time outdoors in the hills and on bikes, consumers turned to trusted brands like Berghaus and Endura and both increased sales and grew market share in 2020.

“We’ve also seen all of our brands become more responsive to what’s going on in the world around them. They reached out and became part of their communities. From making PPE and celebrating front line workers, volunteering and fundraising, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and mental health awareness, our brands supported, entertained and engaged with their communities in a way that had never happened before.”

What were the key factors in navigating 2020?

“I am incredibly proud of how the whole business responded to the crisis, in terms of the choices we took to make sure we could survive, and the way we delivered on our value of ‘doing the right thing’ – balancing the needs of the business alongside those of our employees, partners, vendors and retail customers.

“We managed to control the business through the crisis effectively by prioritising the activities that had the biggest chance of success. For example, as the western world was locking down, Asia was starting to open up again, so we focused on growing our Speedo business in China, which has had exceptional growth over the past two to three years.

“We also completed the Speedo North America acquisition from PVH Corp in April 2020. This has brought the global powerhouse brand together, so we can now unlock the potential of the Speedo swim super brand.

“Having tight controls throughout meant we survived in the short term, but we also needed to look at the requirements to thrive beyond the crisis. That meant completing our strategic review and restructuring the business. We’ll now be in a stronger position as we move out of the crisis and into our plans for future business growth.”