Interview with Sarah Sameh

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CEO Sunday Afternoons, a global leader in technical headwear
Posted on
December 13, 2022
by
M. James Ward in ,
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Background

Sarah Sameh is the Chief Executive Officer of Sunday Afternoons, a global leader in technical headwear and accessories. Since assuming the position in late 2014, she has transformed the 30-year old company from a small, family-owned business to a highly regarded player in the global marketplace.

Under her leadership, Sunday Afternoons experienced a 380 percent increase in net sales, a 137 percent increase in major wholesale accounts and a 40 percent increase in staff, as well as a notable expansion of its global network.

Interview with Sarah Sameh, Sunday Afternoons

The Sameh Story

It has been an honor to lead the company as we push the boundaries of hat making. Once a small, family-owned business, Sunday Afternoons has transformed into a highly regarded player in the global marketplace.

With over 40 patents in innovation and design, Sunday Afternoons is known for its technical expertise. We’ve grown into a socially and environmentally conscious outdoor brand, with a strong commitment to preserving resources and protecting workers.

We strive to use green manufacturing processes, source recycled materials, avoid harmful chemicals in supply chain practices, and upcycle products when possible.

We are proud to now be Climate Neutral Certified. Not only has Sunday Afternoons substantially grown in revenue and profits, but we have also successfully reached new customers, retailers, and distribution partners; established diversity, equity, and inclusion guidelines; and instituted programs aimed at giving back to the community in meaningful ways.

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Ultra Adventure

What was the genesis for Sunday Afternoons?

Our family-owned company was founded in southern Oregon in 1992, when our founders, Robbin and Angeline Lacy, launched the Original Adventure Blanket™. Later, we introduced the Original Adventure Hat™, initially created from blanket remnants, which became the first neck cape silhouette in the market, patented in the midnineties.

Sunday Afternoons is a global leader in 65 countries, creating technical headwear and offering a diverse collection of hats and other accessories that provide superior protection from the elements.

Our company was named for our favorite time of the week, when we recharge, reconnect with family and friends, and spend time outdoors.

 

What distinguishes Sunday Afternoons products from your main competitors?

At Sunday Afternoons, innovation is the foundation of our product design. From patented performance technologies to technical features that add protection, safety, and comfort, we continuously seek solutions to improve your time outdoors. Some of our key features and patented designs include UPF 50+ sun protection, moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics, Sunglass Lock™, Reverse Split Brim™, Clamshell Brim™, and StretchBack Sizing™.

More than half of the hats in our collection feature sustainable fabrics or bluesign® socially and environmentally responsible fabrics, and some styles include recycled polyester, which reduces emissions and water use.

In 2022, we achieved Climate Neutral Certification by offsetting our 2021 greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re implementing reduction strategies for future emissions. By eliminating individual plastic bags for both wholesale and retail orders, we have diverted 5.5 million bags from landfills.

We donate a percentage of our profits to global and local organizations, including Protect Our Winters, Leave No Trace, and the European Outdoor Conservation Association.

Sol Seeker

Who is your customer?

Our fans love being outside, and our products are designed to help them stay outdoors longer.

From the beginning, we designed our year-round collection of hats and accessories to shade the whole family and offer superior protection for a variety of activities ranging from hiking and trail running to travel, golf, and gardening.

 

What has the overall market been like -- both pre and post pandemic?

Our brand was growing significantly pre-pandemic. When the pandemic hit, we weren’t sure what to expect. Much to our delight, the demand for outdoor gear, apparel, and accessories boomed during the pandemic, with consumers seeking new and different ways to stay active and grounded during an unprecedented, stressful time across the globe.

Post-pandemic, we’ve seen continued growth and interest in our headwear and accessories across specialty outdoor markets, lifestyle and boutique retailers, and global distribution partners.

Original Adventure

In approximate terms -- what is the percentage of sales via brick-and-mortar outlet shops and those online?

Our sales are split around 85% brick and mortar and 15% online, inclusive of our DTC channel.

 

Are there differences between how men and women select headwear and what specific styles does each gender generally favor?

Except for a few female-leaning silhouettes, our hats are designed to be unisex where possible, with AdventuReady™ versatility built into the designs.

Our hats easily transition from trail to town and everything in between. Recently we’ve seen a major uptick in our featherweight running caps and visors, which easily carry over into sports like golf and tennis that require protection and cooling from sun and heat.

Sunset

There's been a major uptick in the awareness of consumers regarding skin cancer. What specific steps does Sunday Afternoons take in widening the message in this area?

The majority of the hats in our collection are rated UPF 50+, the highest possible rating, blocking over 98% of UVA and UVB rays. With longstanding roots and expertise in sun protective headwear, our brand is often the first recommendation by dermatologists.

We believe the best way to influence behavior and encourage sun safety and protection while enjoying the outdoors is by setting a good example. Through partnerships with influential dermatologists, medical professionals, and athletes, we promote the message around sun protection and the importance of wearing a protective hat year-round.

 

Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed by the company.

We have both phone and chat services during the work week and a robust set of FAQs available online at www.sundayafternoons.com/pages/frequently-asked-questions.

Interview with Sarah Sameh, Sunday Afternoons
Havana

How does Sunday Afternoons encourage feedback? And can one specific instance of feedback be outlined that impacted a future company effort?

Our team encourages feedback through our social media channels and our Customer Loyalty team, as well as through vendors, third-party partners, consumers, distributors, reps, wholesalers, ambassadors, online aggregated reviews, and internal team members.

We deeply value feedback, as it helps us become a more responsive and thoughtful brand. We address questions and feedback on a weekly basis at a leadership level. In fact, we recently revised a few of our FAQs because customers told us that a few of our answers weren’t quite up to snuff.

 

Biggest challenges going forward -- short and long term -- and how is Sunday Afternoons dealing with each?

Like most outdoor brands, Sunday Afternoons continues to experience unprecedented demand. Following the pandemic, the industry is unfortunately also collectively challenged by a constrained supply chain that has faced considerable challenges over the past two years, including substantial increases in the cost of materials and freight, labor shortages, supply chain shutdowns, and less than ideal timing on inventory flows.

With solid long-term relationships with our manufacturing partners and suppliers, we’ve leaned into various potential solutions, including streamlining orders of certain materials and styles and being more intentional when it comes to stocking core products. In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, we also lost our headquarters in a devastating wildfire that swept through our valley.

We’ve spent the last two years picking up the pieces and refocusing our efforts, and we moved into a new headquarters last June. During the same period, we implemented a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, allowing us to scale more effectively. It has been challenging, to say the least! But we have an amazing and committed team, and we are laying the foundation for continued strategic growth.

Shade Goddess

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For more info go to:

www.sundayafternoons.com

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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