With the Sunice brand making strong inroads into the UK and European market, Jon Camp is heading up a new company, New Venture Sports. With Camp’s track record and a focus on European styles and consumer campaigns GOLF RETAILING asks whether his ‘New Venture’ is set for success?
An accountant by profession, Jon Camp entered the golf industry in 2000 when he joined Ashworth as finance director. Shortly after, Camp took over operations and became MD at Ashworth, overseeing the growth of the business from £4.5 to £17.6 million in seven years. During that period Camp also looked after Callaway Golf apparel under license to Ashworth until the company’s sale.
In 2010 Camp returned to consult on setting up a distribution network for Sunice, AUR and their licensed stablemate Tommy Hilfiger Golf for the Fletcher Group. Since then Camp has taken over the reins and steered the brands through a change of ownership into profitability.
Rumours are circulating yet again about Sunice, so can we start by clarifying what the current situation is?
It seems like I’ve been answering the same question ever since I became involved with the Fletcher organisation and the Sunice business in Europe five years ago. Obviously there have been significant changes to the business in Canada. Their original finance, logistics and timelines did cause us some problems, as with previous distributors, and this did raise concerns in the European marketplace.
Over the past 18 months though the new management has in fact brought a lot of stability and a better infrastructure, but as with many North American brands they are mainly focussed on business in their territory. So, I can confirm that the rumours are true and that Sunice LLC are withdrawing from Europe.
However, this doesn’t signal the end for Sunice in the UK and Europe. Quite the opposite as we have just signed an agreement to manage the brand under license as New Venture Sports.
So what does this actually mean for UK and European customers?
At the moment, nothing! It’s really business as usual. The spring-summer 2016 collection has been designed and we are selling in as we speak, with first drop deliveries scheduled for January. On 1 January 2016 the entire UK and European operation transfers to New Venture Sports. Everything will be managed here in the UK, so apart from some paperwork, our customers really won’t see much difference in terms of logistics.
What we are most excited about is having real influence on the design and marketing of the brand here in Europe. We’ve wanted to invest more in our marketing for several years now, but budgets just haven’t been available. Our new company has the investment in place to really push the brand forward and bring it to the attention of the buying public.
So who is New Venture Sports?
The company is solely owned by a silent investor. I’m heading up the operation with key personnel such as Louise Strutt, my head of customer services, Jane Bugg, head of credit control and Matt Howard my global operations and international liaisons manager based in Montreal. This core team has been with me since my Ashworth days and I couldn’t want for better support in driving things forward. As we develop New Venture Sports we will expand our reach and add to the core team, bringing in expertise where we need it. The first such appointment is Brad Franklin, our new design director. He’s a former PGA professional and has impressive apparel credentials having previously worked on collections for Tommy Hilfiger Golf, AUR and Dunning. We’re also talking to specialists in fabric innovation and sportswear design here in the UK.
What does the future hold for Sunice?
In outerwear, we are taking the best of what Canada has available, so for instance superior fabrication and design innovation, and putting our mark on it. As Brad says “Europeans are more thoughtful” in the way they dress, whereas Americans like to wear a uniform or golf costume. We want to make sure every item of clothing or outerwear is more carefully considered. This could take the form of a new finish, an interesting trim or unusual logo placement.
The sportswear collections will be designed from scratch, starting with S/S 17. This is where our real opportunity lies. We can create complete collections with a full range of garments for men and women. Once we have these in place, we can aim at bigger accounts and even look at tour player sponsorships.
Will you be bringing any other brands into the portfolio?
The simple answer is yes. At the moment we are days away from signing an agreement to bring a new brand to the UK. Unfortunately we can’t share the details, but we already have samples ready to show anyone visiting the New Venture Sports stand at the Golf Trade Show in October.
We’re also in extended negotiations to produce a premium golf apparel collection in conjunction with one of Britain’s iconic menswear brands. If this goes ahead it will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in.