Gildan Activewear Inc. hopes country music superstar Blake Shelton will extend the awareness of its brand and help sell more products to women.
The Montreal-based company has signed the musician and reality TV star to a two-year deal to promote its retail brand through TV advertising, sponsoring the singer's tour and using his photo in store displays to attract retail customers.
Chief executive Glenn Chamandy says he thinks the company made the right catch, even though Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert, is also a very popular country music star.
"His awareness with women is very strong," Chamandy said Thursday as Gildan's female executives nodded their heads following the company's annual meeting.
Gildan took a year working with its advertising agency before signing up its first celebrity endorsement. It was seeking someone with great awareness by both men and women.
Shelton is also very popular in the same regions of the United States where Gildan's lines of basic T-shirts, socks and underwear perform best.
The U.S. market for branded clothes is worth $20-billion (U.S.) – five times as large as printwear – and Gildan wants to capture a large part of that.
In just one year, its share of the men's underwear market doubled to 6 per cent, making it the third-largest brand. The goal is to reach 10 per cent this year and eventually 30 per cent.
Gildan's product offering is heavily skewed to men, although many of its unisex shirts appeal to both sexes.
About 20 per cent of its products are targeted at women. Before last year's acquisition of hosiery maker Doris, that number was about 10 to 15 per cent. The goal is have that ratio balanced evenly.
"We have more sales in the men's area today but we're making headway into ladies as well," Chamandy told reporters, noting that more women's products are being added to the retail product mix.
Doris is the dominant supplier of women's hosiery in Canada. Gildan wants to extend Doris sales to the United States and use the segment's connections with Canadian retailers to sell Gildan's other brands. Its $100-million acquisition of Comfort Colors announced Wednesday will also help since the dyed, weathered products are popular with college students of both sexes.
Gildan is also looking to round out its portfolio by adding brassieres, possibly through an acquisition.