Signals Intensified Drive Behind the Aqua Sphere & Phelps Swim Brands
The internationally acclaimed Aqua Lung Group, owner of the Aqua Sphere and Phelps swimming brands, is delighted to announce that Nick Holmes has joined the UK team as Country Manager
Nick has a significant background in the UK sporting goods market including roles within swimming, most notably spending 9 years with the adidas Group including spells in Category Management with responsibility for the swim category and hands-on involvement in the London 2012 Olympics project. Nick also brings a wealth of sales channel experience to his new role, ranging from his work as Head of National Accounts at Under Armour when the brand set up its UK subsidiary, building key partner status with the Intersport Group, to close understanding of the needs of independent retailers in his work for businesses across women’s activewear, cycling, camping and outdoor.
SI: Nick, you have certainly worked across a number of sports categories including swimming, but don’t you also have a special personal interest in swim and triathlon?
NH: Yes, from a personal perspective I was a competitive swimmer in my youth and have returned to swimming with the masters training group at Preston Swimming Club. I have two sons who also compete and I am involved in the administration of the club. I am also a keen triathlete, competing largely over Olympic distance events in some of the most beautiful locations in Britain – my favourite being the Buttermere Tri in the stunning surroundings of the Lake District. As a result, I have been aware of Aqua Sphere’s goggles for a long time and can confirm through dogged personal experience that they provide superb panoramic vision and comfort. They are certainly highly regarded amongst the tri community and known to set a benchmark in aquatic eyewear. More lately, Aqua Sphere’s tri wetsuits are also gaining devotees as a result of their construction quality across the three key price points, and it’s definitely an interesting time to become immersed in the brand’s development and direction. As for Phelps, all regular and competitive pool swimmers are aware of the Phelps brand and its excellent range of goggles, training and competitive swimwear and training aids, all developed in conjunction with Michael Phelps himself. As a keen swimmer, it’s important to me to be involved with brands with such strong product integrity and I am thrilled to be a part of the UK expansion and development.
SI: Times have been tough in sports retail recently to say the least. What is your personal outlook on the UK market, specifically for swimming sales?
NH: Covid-19 restrictions have clearly hit the indoor swim market with pools and physical retail stores shut again across the UK after Christmas. However, lockdown has accelerated an interest in open water swimming in the UK and it has been great to see so many people enjoying the many beautiful and safe locations across the country where people can swim in the open air. There is definitely a commercial opportunity with open water swimming for retailers to explore in 2021.
On the indoors swimming side, I am excited about the new Phelps brand partnerships with Guildford City Swimming Club and – particularly in this delayed Olympic year – with the Team GB swimmer Georgia Davies. Having a brand like Phelps, developed with the greatest swimmer of all time, to offer to the serious and competitive swimmer is a real asset and one we intend to amplify this year.
SI: So the independent retailer is a big part of your plans in 2021 and beyond?
NH: The independent retail sector remains an important channel for both the Aqua Sphere and Phelps brands because of the specialist product knowledge and consumer focus this sector can provide. We are particularly keen to work with those who, in turn, work closely with clubs and events in their area and look forward to opening up more conversations with these outlets.
For our part, I understand that it is vital that we work closely together with our retail partners to showcase both brands, what each stands for, the quality and technology involved in the products, and that we engage with the end consumer in an impactful, informative and inspirational way.
The initial days of Brexit have been a challenge for us – as with many businesses – and one which the back office team have been focused on along with our logistics partners to ensure we continue to service our retail partners in the best possible way. Happily for us, the Aqua Lung Group has an incredible global heritage with a strong portfolio of brands, each leading the way in its sector and offering unparalleled design, development and manufacturing expertise. Being part of a group with a global footprint in more than 60 countries means that we have gold standard backing and a first-rate European administrative hub, and the business will continue to invest in product development, marketing, customer service and logistics to help us serve our partners better than ever this year and beyond. It is certainly an exciting time to be joining the business and I believe the future is limitless!