Tailoring a suit that fits the uniquely shaped, 110kg frame of Sonny Bill Williams is a challenge that comes with the territory when you’re the official formal wear supplier to the All Blacks, says Barkers managing director Jamie Whiting.
This weekend, the Auckland-based men’s clothing firm will be measuring up the world champion players for their new season suits.
“Every suit has to be custom tailored for the guys,” Whiting said.
The sponsorship, which began in 2009, was paying dividends and Barkers had re-signed with the team until 2015, he said.
The company ramped up its association with the All Blacks last year as the Rugby World Cup approached, using team members in its “headline” marketing for its formal-wear range, Whiting said.
Players including Israel Dagg and Conrad Smith featured in print, in-store and on billboard advertisements.
“What we were looking to do was get that sponsorship really out there – overtly,” Whiting said. “Off the back of that we had a really, really good September and October.”
While many retailers complained of flat or falling sales during the World Cup, Whiting said Barkers had a record October, with revenue up 20 per cent on October 2010.
Sales for the year as a whole ended up being 50 per cent higher than those in 2010, he added.
And Whiting said Barkers’ strong performance had continued into this year. So far, sales for May were 25 per cent up on the same month last year.
The company is in the midst of a revamp of its 27-store network, and Whiting said Barkers had completely overhauled its product range.
“People are taking a second look at the business and they’re voting with their wallet, which is nice to see,” he said.
Barkers is 70 per cent owned by Chris Greive, who bought the business in 2006. Whiting purchased a 25 per cent stake in the firm when he joined it in 2010.
The company – founded in 1972 by Ray Barker, the father of sailor Dean Barker – celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.
New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said it was good to have the clothing retailer back on board as a sponsor.
“Barkers along with all our partners play a vital role in helping us promote and sustain the game at all levels,” Tew said.
“Without them, our job of fostering the game would be that much more difficult so we really appreciate them stepping up to back the All Blacks again.”
By Christopher Adams
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