In this special online series with Fordham, sits down for five fast questions with five industry leaders. Here, the CEO of one of the most iconic Australian retail chains talks about maintaining a winning edge. 

Sportsgirl CEO: Colleen Callander

What was a key goal for Sportsgirl this year and how did the company achieve it?

This year we have really focussed on the Sportsgirl brand and making sure it is clearly differentiated in a cluttered and very competitive retail landscape.

We continually make sure we are distinctive and clearly differentiated from our competitors with the signature Sportsgirl handwriting working across every touchpoint in our business.

We place huge emphasis on understanding and leading our girl better than anyone else. We are always striving to make Sportsgirl the number 1 fashion brand for 16-24 year old Australian girls.

Our marketing strategy for Sportsgirl is born from three main elements.

  • Our first is to ensure we are representing the Australian lifestyle that every 20-something girl aspires to lead. We are constantly evolving and always relevant for right now. We represent the values and aspirations of our customer in a relevant and authentic way.
  • Secondly we need to ensure we understand our customer, her behaviours and her way of life – this is constantly changing and we must continue to evolve with her.
  • Finally we ensure our strategy speaks to empowering Australian girls. In order to win her heart we have moved beyond what she wears and started talking to her about what she believes in; generating conversations around topics she feels strongly about. Our “Be that girl” campaign launched earlier this year is one example of our marketing strategy reflecting this, as it is designed to help empower Australian girls and give them confidence to be whoever they want to be, to Be That Girl.

From a product perspective this year we have maintained our focus on our Beauty business that has seen major growth in the past couple of years.

It’s a category where we can not only build customer loyalty and fantastic engagement with the Sportsgirl brand, but also at the same time provide a low entry price point for our younger emerging market.

We know it’s important that we provide both a comprehensive range of beauty products as well as educate our customer on how to use all of them.

We work with vloggers, beauty experts, the media and a wide range of influencers to help with this. We utilise content across our digital channels, the Sportsgirl Beauty hub, social media and all of our stores where we have specially designed beauty units as well as plenty of content demonstrating how to use the key new products.

Beauty has provided us with some fantastic opportunities to form collaborations with two very different partners; Kelly Maker, a young Melbourne artist and Allen’s, the very well known and loved Australian confectionary manufacturer.

What was one of the brand's most successful activations/campaigns?

One of our most successful campaigns has been Be that girl, that launched in August 2018.

For 70 years Sportsgirl has been embracing Australian lifestyle, and culture. We connect with Australian girls from their transition from girlhood to womanhood and understand the issues that are central to young women today.

Be That Girl celebrates Australian people from all walks of life; from scientists to trans models, Paralympians and Indigenous activists. Be That Girl demonstrates there’s no such thing as “perfection”, it’s about being who you are - whomever that might be.

It’s about empowering all girls to feel confident, capable and strong in their own identities no matter what they are trying to achieve.

The “Be That Girl’ campaign lets girls have a platform to tell their stories in the hope that it inspires every Australian girls to be whoever they want to be.

We launched our campaign in 2018 but it is because of our 70-year heritage that we can launch “Be That Girl” with true authenticity and have a genuine connection with our girl.

This campaign is not only a culmination of our past, it is our present…. and more importantly our future.

Be That Girl has been integrated into every touch point of the Sportsgirl business from windows, to in store, outdoor campaigns, social and online platforms but most importantly communicated to every staff member that works for the Sportsgirl brand.

Empowerment and self-belief starts internally and these values are ones we consistently embrace within our teams.

The Be that Girl campaign reached over 12 million people in the first week of its launch and the positive feedback and stories that have been shared has been overwhelming.

Be That Girl is not just a campaign….It is a way of being!

Be That Girl mark 2 launches in February 2019 so watch this space….

From a ranging perspective, what were some of the top-selling trends and looks?


We launched fashion, casual and classic pieces this season and the great thing about linen is that it can go from a casual day option and just by adding some heels and Sportsgirl accessories it updates to a going out look.
Animal print, animal print and more animal print!

This has been very popular across all product types, and this trend is not going away anytime soon.

The simple nineties trend of the classic white tee worn paired back with high waisted rigid denim is also a key look for the Sportsgirl customer.

From an accessories point of view straw has been a huge trend for summer – This goes hand in hand with the changing consumer consciousness, a return to all things natural and authentic. We use a mix of real straw and paper straw across a number of departments including bags and hats.

Statement earrings have also been on our radar this summer. Our customer has been paying more attention to her face – her beauty regime, the more daring colour choices she is making with regards to her cosmetics. And the earring is finishing off this look- it’s taking her from uni or her day job to a night look and it’s not breaking the bank.

This summer we re-vamped the packaging of our Iconic Body Glow with a more modern, fresh new Look. The same, amazing wash off bronzer with its famous tropical scent is a mainstay every summer season and has become a must have in every girls beauty bag.

What were the challenges this year and how did the business overcome them?

The retail landscape continues to be promotionally and markdown driven which is not the space Sportsgirl wants to play in or be know for.

Of course every retailer will have some level of promotional activity including ourselves but we are much more focused on delivering her great product at great prices and great quality that fits in with her lifestyle and allows her to express herself.

Even in the world of fast fashion our girl still wants product to last, so our teams are working even more closely with vendors than ever before as well as us investing in the ‘Quality Assurance’ area.

Recruitment and retention is always a focus and at Sportsgirl we have implemented a range of engaging brand campaigns and have been constantly experimenting with our digital and media channels to ensure we are continuing to attract great talent.

With a strong focus on engagement and retention of our own talented team members we are continuing to train, coach and mentor our teams across the entire business. We have a range of training and development opportunities for our team members on offer from online induction training, in store training and our Management Development Program.

We constantly review and update our training to ensure that it is relevant and engaging for our team and are always keeping our eye out for new training opportunities that might suit out business. In the past 12 months we have opened 20 new stores which has been fantastic for our business and teams.

We have used these new store openings to succession plan our teams which has now created further opportunities to recruit new talent, and continue our focus on the training and development of our team members.

Where do you see the biggest growth opportunities for Sportsgirl in 2019?

2019 for Sportsgirl is all about continuing to understand our customer and the way she lives her life. It’s about connecting with her on a much deeper level than just her fashion needs. Sportsgirl is a big part of our girl’s life; we culturally connect with her and truly understand how she lives.

To be truly connected to a brand today you need to share the same values - for us it’s about being authentic and honest, inspiring our girls, being creative in everything we do and ensuring we offer her consistency at every touch point. Every descion we make comes back to our customer, our values and staying true to our brand DNA.

I feel like retail landscape has become a “sea of sameness” so for us it’s about how we differentiate and be more meaningful to the customer. We have such a lifestyle offering for our girl, we can dress her from day to night and from head to toe including of course all her beauty needs.

We want our physical stores and our online to be a destination – a place where she can be inspired, be educated as well as being entertained.

Our focus will be on continuing to differentiate through our store design, the way we merchandise our stores to create an exciting shopping experience, a focus on how we make every customer feel when they walk into a Sportsgirl store and of course our great product offering across apparel and accessories.

We will continue to collaborate with existing as well as new and emerging talent and continue to give our audience a voice and a platform to showcase their talents.

2019 will also see the launch of a new online destination for Sportsgirl.

Right now, we are in the process of a large-scale replatforming project for Throughout this process we are focused on understanding what is important to our customers; how they shop, what they want and how they are inspired to live their lives.

This will be about offering things such as more flexible delivery options, featuring more ‘how to’ video content for our Sportsgirl beauty range and building a platform to promote inspiring stories from young Australians. We are focused on creating not only a seamless shopping experience, but also a destination that young Australian’s can interact and engage with Sportsgirl’s from around Australia and the globe.

We are creating a destination that inspires, excites and understands their lifestyle and what they are interested in, beyond just that of product.

We have seen exceptional growth and interaction across our social media channels over the last 12 months. In response to this we are constantly developing our content strategy with a big focus on creating considered video content and driving engagement across @sportsgirl and @sportsgirlbeauty Instagram channels.

We will continue featuring a mix of user generated content, purposely created brand content, retro throwbacks (we have an amazing catalogue of images spanning over 50 years), lifestyle posts, and promotions. We will also experiment with different types of content with a concentrated focus on Instagram stories.

We will continue to work with the best and most relevant Sportsgirl ambassadors across all areas of fashion and beauty.
Our audience is at the forefront of everything we do, so as they evolve so do we.

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