Russell Athletic Will No Longer Produce Uniforms; To Focus On Consumer Retail
Fruit of the Loom, the parent company to Russell Athletic, announced Thursday it was "getting out of the team uniform business," according to Mitch Sneed of the Alexander City OUTLOOK. Russell Athletic Senior VP/Brand Management Scott Greene in a statement said, "We will begin to transition away from the team uniform business to allow greater emphasis on the consumer retail market. With this shift, we will continue to offer high quality athletic lifestyle and performance apparel for distribution through multiple retail and wholesale channels, including continued distribution of collegiate licensed products along with non-uniform apparel through the team dealer network." Sneed noted Russell Brands "still employs about 500 people" in its distribution center in Alexander City, Ala. The "bulk of what the center handles currently is the retail line of products." Most industry followers believe Russell Athletic was "at its peak" in '92 when it signed a five-year contract with MLB teams to be the "exclusive providers of uniforms." The brand was "dealt a serious and possibly fatal blow earlier this summer when Georgia Tech, one of the final major college programs with deals with Russell, announced it would be ending its relationship and contract with the company." Greene said that the move will give the company the ability to "better develop and market products for retail consumers." Greene: "Our new business strategy focuses on the growing athletic and lifestyle apparel market and developing products that will open new doors for retail distribution of our iconic brand." But former Russell Athletic President Barney Wachtal said that the exit of Russell will be a "big blow" to small colleges and high schools who "relied on Russell for quality, affordable uniforms" (Alexander City OUTLOOK, 9/29).