Interview with Champion – equestrian equipment manufacturer

A few weeks ago during Blog Hour, I mentioned some brands that I’d like to engage with more directly.  The manufacturer of my own choice of horsey headgear responded, and their PR rep – Jenny at Halcyon Days – organised for them to answer some burning questions I had.  My questions were passed to Managing Director Sarah-Jane Fedarb, and her answers are below.  Many thanks to Jenny (and, again, the world of Twitter!) for setting this up and liaising, and thanks to Champion for answering my probing queries.

What triggered the development of contemporary vented helmets at Champion, and how long did it take from the decision to design them to helmets being available on the market?
Champion recognised that some riders found their head reaching uncomfortable temperatures many years ago, even in the usually cool British weather!  Champion first offered a ventilated hat back in 1999 which was the Champion Universal.  This design was a great success and laid the foundations for the many ventilated designs we now have on the market today.

A new hat design will on average take 12-18 months from the signed off concept to the hat being available in store, however this can increase greatly with more complex styles.  

How long does it take to manufacture a helmet?
Here at Champion, we source components as close to our factories in Cardiff as possible, so if we had all the components for a particular style in hand, a hat can easily be made in less than one day.  All of our hats and helmets are batch tested by British Standards Institute to PAS 015 2011.  A benefit of the PAS015 standard over some other standards is that it insists/stipulates that a style of hats be manufactured and type tested, and then batch tested regularly.

Many bra manufacturers have been publicly criticised for charging a higher price for larger sizes – what is the reason for the greater cost of larger riding helmets?  Clearly, the price difference for adult and junior sizes is due to VAT, which is EU legislation rather than company policy, but why charge customers with larger heads more money?
Champion offer a range of hats that can be worn by both adults and children, and the only difference in the price on the larger sizes is where we are legally obliged to charge VAT.  We do not charge more for larger sizes and cannot comment on the policy of other industries.  There is only a small difference in the product costs for different sized hats and we are happy to help make retailers and consumers lives easier by keeping the price the same for all sizes.

At Champion we also offer a range of ‘Junior’ hats which are designed for children and are VAT exempt in the whole range of sizes, as some children have larger head sizes than adults.  Again we do not charge more for the different sizes in these ranges.

What inspired the development of female-specific body protectors, such as your Freedom design?  As you have probably guessed it was the female form that inspired our new range of ‘ladies only’ body protectors, as in general men and women have very different body shapes.  Our designers and engineers ably undertook a lot of investigative work into the female form and the best designs to ensure maximum comfort and protection and our Female form body protectors are the result.  The response has been excellent, with many women now much happier and more comfortable in their body protector, so are more willing to wear it on a regular basis, which can only be a positive thing from a safety point of view.

But as before – why the increased cost for a larger size?  Might this encourage customers to try and save money by buying the smaller sizes?
We would hope that no-one tries to purchase an ill-fitting hat or body protector for themselves or their children as this could compromise their safety, and we go to great lengths to train all of our retailers in how to correctly fit both hats and body protectors.  An ill-fitting hat can be dangerous.  When some children are new to riding there can be an understandable temptation for their parents to want to buy some products with ‘growing room’, however this is not possible with hats or body protectors as a close fit is essential and when you consider the excellent protection that these products offer it is worth investing in correctly fitting safety products.

As with the hats, for body protectors we are legally obliged to charge VAT once products hit a given size.  However there is also a different price for each size of body protector as the components, and fabrics are very expensive and they make up the bulk of the price.  A large adults size body protector has virtually double the fabrics and expensive high tech foam of, for example, a small child size, therefore pro-rata the bigger sizes warrant the increased price.

We do a range of Champion clothing and do not charge more for the larger sizes in our waterproof and breathable, rip stop blousons, fleece hoodie, base layers, polo shirts etc as the extra price of these fabrics on the larger sizes can more easily be absorbed across the range.  

The use of helmet cameras caused uproar at the end of the 2014 eventing season, and things remain unresolved – would Champion potentially work with governing bodies, riders and camera manufacturers to resolve this and further innovate equestrian products?
As a concept we love the idea of helmets cams, and have enjoyed watching videos taken by riders when galloping around a track or course.  However we do not have any experience of helmet cams or the potential for repercussions of wearing one in the event of an accident.

Because cameras are mounted on the outer surface of helmets they add extra risks, such as being caught up in branches when riding through a forestry bridle path or increasing the chance of rotational injury if the camera snags when impacted.  For these reasons it is important that the cameras mounting systems are able to break away easily during an impact so as to not act as a lever trying to turn your head during an accident.  There are other concerns with the mounting systems where the adhesives and screws could affect the impact properties of the shell, which is more relevant for helmets built with plastic injection moulded shells.  Some cameras are very small and do seem to be easily detached, but at this moment additional testing to investigate the above risks has not been developed.

Do Champion help customers to be “green” in any way?  Although helmets in their original form can’t be recycled (especially if in an accident) is there any component which can be recycled, or any incentives offered to customers, such as an amnesty when replacing their old products?
Due to the very nature and intention design of a riding hat, when it absorbs the energy of an impact it becomes damaged and needs to be safely disposed of.  We are not aware of any facility to recycle either the outer shells or the internal liners. We are not aware of any British manufacturers who offer such incentives.

What can equestrians expect to see next from Champion, what should we be getting excited about?
Champion is continually developing new products and looking for innovations to existing products.  We continually improved our BSEN1384 hats, which were all exceeding this rigorous test by around 30% when the standard was unfortunately withdrawn in late 2015.  We have recently launched a number of exciting new products to the market, which are already receiving a fantastic response from retailers and consumers alike.  These include the unisex Evo-Flex body protector, which is extremely lightweight and brings body protector style and comfort to a whole new level. We have also recently launched a total of 11 new styles of Champion riding hats, bringing a total of 26 new variations to market for improved customer choice in 2015.  While all these new helmets are selling extremely well, the front runners in our Junior range are our new X-Air Plus Helmet and the sparkling new X-Air Dazzle.  Even riders who aren’t such a big fan of ‘bling’ are really taking to the Dazzle!  Within our adult range, the new top of the range ‘Evolution Pro’ riding hat has also been extremely well received, thanks to its striking, modern and high-tech design.  We also have the new X-Air Plus, the Euro Deluxe Plus and the Air-Tech Plus, all of which are kitemarked to PAS015 and so are all suitable for use in competition in 2015 and beyond.

***

What did you think of Champion’s responses to my questions?  I was interested to hear that helmets can be made in a day, and that companies like Champion consider additional technology such as cameras with relation to how it impacts the efficacy of the original product.  I’m slightly disappointed regarding the sizing issue, as I know of shops which charge increased prices for larger helmet sizes within the adult range, though it’s good to hear that this isn’t something that the manufacturer endorses.  It’s also exciting to hear about the constant innovation that our changing horsey world has on product development.

If you’d like to know more about the products mentioned above (I still highly recommend the Ventair, which has changed my life!), you can check out the Champion catalogue online.

Do you have any burning questions for suppliers to the equestrian industry?  Twitter could be our forum, who shall we put under the microscope next?

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4 thoughts on “Interview with Champion – equestrian equipment manufacturer

  1. I like the old-schoolness of some of the models in their catalog. I just bought a new helmet and sadly, I think it is a tad too big. The smaller size felt like it was pressing my brains out and so I went up a size. I hope to return it or exchange it this weekend. It’s really pretty too. And traditional looking–a Charles Owen.

    • They always do when you first get them, have to remember they loosen as you wear and sweat in them though (gross, I know!). I’m all about the ventilated helmets (I have a very hot head!). Mine is a black Ventair 🙂

  2. I never would have guessed that a hat could be made in less than a day! Genuinely thought it might take longer!! & I love the response regarding helmet cams! Very informative!

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