NEW BRANDS ON THE OLYMPIC STAGE
The Summer Olympics open in Tokyo on July 23, after a one-year delay due to the pandemicNo fans will be permitted in Olympic venues due to Covid restrictionsTelfar, Skims and Athleta are among the brands looking to get a big boost from the games
The Olympics are a gargantuan opportunity for fashion, though it is typically brands with international marketing budgets capable of matching the scale of the games that benefit most. Nike, Adidas and other big activewear brands blanket events with their logos and showcase their latest performance gear in competition. Ralph Lauren has used the uniforms worn by US athletes during the opening and closing ceremonies to burnish its all-American branding since 2008.
But there are some new entrants onto the Olympic stage this year, each with its own plans to make a splash. Telfar is sponsoring the Liberian team and designing their uniforms (the designer Telfar Clemens emigrated from the West African country when he was five). The brand will use the event to build buzz for an upcoming sports-inspired collection, including workout gear. Meanwhile, American athletes will be wearing Skims, the shapewear label launched by Kim Kardashian in 2019, underneath their Ralph Lauren and Nike. With its body-positive and racially-inclusive messaging, the brand is staking its claim as the next generation’s take on Americana. And Athleta, the Gap-owned women’s athletic wear brand, has signed two of America’s most prominent Olympic athletes, track star Allyson Felix and gymnast Simone Biles. Both are central to Gap’s plans to double Athleta sales to $2 billion by 2023 amid a women’s sports boom.
The Bottom Line: The pandemic is creating complications for fashion brands looking to leverage the Olympics. There will be no crowds in the stands, limiting on-site activations. And the audience at home may be smaller; most major sporting events have seen reduced television viewership since the start of the pandemic.
ENFORCING THE RULES
The UK is expected to lift most remaining pandemic restrictions on July 19Parts of France and Italy are imposing new rules on gatherings and masks as the Delta variant spreadsRetailers often must enforce mask and proof of vaccination mandates themselves
The arrival of “Freedom Day” in the UK, when the final lockdown restrictions will be lifted, marks the return of nightclubs and mask-free shopping, both welcome developments in certain fashion circles. It also signals the beginning of a confusing period for British retailers, which will need to set and enforce their own mask rules. In the US, where most mask mandates were lifted weeks ago, the transition has gone relatively smoothly. (At least, if there’s been a repeat of last year’s spate of maskless customers violently lashing out at terrified store employees, it hasn’t made the rounds on YouTube.) UK brands also have it easier than their counterparts in France, which may soon require proof of vaccination to enter public spaces. Whether it’s checking masks or vaccination cards, it’s a big ask to require sales associates to play bouncer as well.
The Bottom Line: Even a gradual return to a pre-pandemic shopping experience has come as a huge relief for retailers, with sales rebounding rapidly. That’s worth enduring a few more months of awkward encounters with rule-flouting customers.
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