U.S. Polo Assn. is the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA), which was formed in 1890 as the non-profit governing body for the sport of polo in the United States. Here, RLI sits down with J. Michael Prince, President & CEO of USPA Global Licensing, the company that manages the multi-billion-dollar, global U.S. Polo Assn. brand to discuss its global growth ambitions.
Not just a brand, U.S. Polo Assn. is an experience. When customers purchase from the company, they own a piece of the sport of polo. Royalties generated from U.S. Polo Assn. help fund the USPA, which grows and promotes the sport in the United States and around the world.
As they come into mid-Q2 of 2022, the brand is performing very well and is continuing with its aggressive growth trajectory with dozens of store openings around the world.
Today the business has 1,200 U.S. Polo Assn. brand stores globally, and they are targeting to open more than 100 stores annually from now through 2025. Of these new store openings, a number of them are targeted to be in the UK.
“Our most recent opening saw us enter the UK market alongside our outstanding UK-based partner and retail industry-leader, Brand Machine Group (BMG),” explains J. Michael Prince, President & CEO of USPA Global Licensing. “This store brings a 2,000 sq. ft presence to the prestigious McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet. While we already had a presence in the UK wholesale market, our focus is now to build out retail, and we anticipate opening a good deal more brand stores in the UK, this year and beyond.”
A major milestone opening for U.S. Polo Assn., the Cheshire Oaks store fits in perfectly with their position that there is a blurred line between the high street and outlet stores today, so their focus is to open sites in great locations, and to reach as many consumers as possible.
At the Cheshire Oaks location, UK shoppers can experience the elevated outlet store design concept complete with aspirational imagery, the brand’s signature stripe detailing, tech-driven touchless pay, and LED screens for streaming photoshoots as well as some of the world’s most exciting polo games. U.S. Polo Assn. has made a big investment here and therefore this store features elements of some of the brand’s best stores in the world.
“For inline stores, we offer a lot of the same elements as the outlet but may have different layouts in various size stores. We are working to have as many stores feature LED screens that show polo games, to provide a true brand experience and help further demonstrate to consumers the authentic connection between the sport of polo and the U.S. Polo Assn. brand. We are also renovating some stores in the US to incorporate these elements,” Prince explains.
Last month also saw the brand make its first entry into the Brazilian market with a magnificent new store at the prominent Morumbi Mall in São Paulo. The launch was in partnership with Alpar do Brasil, who works with some of the leading sport and fashion brands in the world. More stores are planned for Brazil in the coming year, and the company anticipates more than 60 stores across the country over the next five years. Furthermore, they have launched e-commerce sites in both the UK and Brazil to complement their growing brick-and-mortar presence and vice versa.
Discussing the topic of brand experience, Prince explains that they want their customers to come back to the stores for the brand experience. That includes ease of shopping, great customer service, the visually bright colours, their signature stripe and the American flag, and the ability to pause and watch an exciting polo game with their friends.
“Overall, we want to be there for our customers anywhere, anytime they want to shop and we want to offer the most authentic and service-oriented experience we can, in-store and online.”
While they had their digital strategy well-underway three years back, the pandemic pushed the company to really double down online. Today U.S. Polo Assn. has 36 brand websites in 18 different languages. Their growth plan for the brand is to open exceptional stores in prime locations to support the online channel and allow more people to experience the amazing global, sport-inspired brand from wherever they want to be – either out shopping or at home. U.S. Polo Assn. also engages with customers through their social media platforms, where they have nearly eight million followers.
The group’s overarching sustainability initiative, USPA Life, is a collaboration with their licensee partners to reduce the environmental impact of the business on people and the planet for today and future generations. USPA Life offers a global and growing selection of apparel, footwear and accessories with sustainable attributes.
“The brand is on a long-term sustainability journey with ambitious goals that seek to take a responsible approach to sourcing with minimal impact on the environment,” Prince says.
U.S. Polo Assn. has successfully fused past and present for lovers of classic, timeless and wearable style and it maintains its unbreakable bond with the USPA.
“Customers have taken notice that philanthropy is at the core of the U.S. Polo Assn. brand. A portion of revenue from the sales of U.S. Polo Assn. products is used to fund polo events across the country; support current, past, and injured players and their families, and to ensure equine welfare,” highlights Prince.
In addition, U.S. Polo Assn. is a top sponsor of charitable events around the world including the Royal Charity Day in the UL, Polo Africa/African Youth Polo Teams, Queens Cup Pink Polo in Thailand, Manipur Statehood Day in India and Susan G. Komen Women’s Polo, as well as the National Intercollegiate Championship and our very own U.S. Polo Assn. Collegiate Partnership Program (CPP) in the US to highlight a few.
“It is a combination of these factors that have made U.S. Polo Assn. an instantly recognisable lifestyle brand with a multi-billion-dollar global footprint operating today across 194 countries and growing,” concludes Prince.