Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A) Russell Athletic has decided to exit the team uniform business (primarily HS and youth leagues) and turn its focus towards a “longer-term, more-healthier place” in consumer retail. A new line of “heritage” styled lifestyle and streetwear clothing, to be launched at Barney’s before to being sold at retailers like Urban Outfitters, will be a part of the company rebrand. A partnership with S&S Activewear (3rd largest U.S. distributor) provides the company with access to previously unreachable corporate and promotional business. Russell plans to maintain its team channel; selling non-uniform items and using S&S Activewear to service those sales.
Howie Long-Short: There is certainly some cache surrounding the “heritage” market, with companies like Champion (HBI), Fila USA (KRX: 081660) and Calvin Klein (PVH) experiencing recent resurgences. HBI reported Champion Q2 ’17 revenues were up 7%, with Fila USA and Calvin Klein up 11.5% ($71.3 million) and 8% ($786 million) respectively, over last year’s figures. It’s been 20 years since Russell Athletic has been relevant, but if you wait long enough, everything comes back into style.
Fan Marino: For those too young to remember, Russell was the largest marketer and manufacturer of athletic apparel in to the early 1990s; when Nike (NKE), Adidas (ADDYY) and Under Armour (UAA) began to pump big dollars into D-1 athletic contracts. Just 2 programs remain with the once dominant brand, Georgia Tech and Southern Miss, both of which have contracts ending with the company in 2018. There has been no word on if their new suppliers will offer cut-off jerseys, the signature look from Russell’s heyday.