Riding the global wave

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Leading Australian swimwear label Seafolly is riding the global wave towards expansion. Founded in 1975, the iconic swimwear and beachwear brand has become a firm summer favourite both at home and abroad, stocked in major fashion department stores and boutiques around the world. Chief Executive Officer Anthony Halas shares from his experience on building a brand, overcoming global uncertainty and his plans for their future.

TRADE EXPRESS: You took on the role as CEO in 1998 after buying into your father’s business. At the time you made a clear change in strategy from supplying private label swimwear into the discount sector (manufactured on behalf of other company’s brands), to the production of your own swimwear label. What has been the benefit to the Seafolly we know today?

Firstly, it helped us to focus. We directed the talented, creative people we had onto one brand only—Seafolly—and this energy and effort was what it needed to grow. We also found the margin on a brand was better than the margin on a private label, so that helped us financially. Finally, it was clear to us that private labels had no loyalty, whereas building a brand was an investment in an asset. Seafolly has become an asset in its own right — as one of Australia’s most recognisable brands.

TRADE EXPRESS: Why do you think Seafolly has been so well received overseas?

Internationally, beachwear and swimwear is a product category for which Americans and Europeans really respect Australians. As soon as you say you’re an Australian brand in this industry, you’ve immediately got credibility. When you say you’re Australia’s number one brand, well, then you’ve got it nailed.
From our fashion designers, to our employees, to our friends and family we spend hours enjoying life in our own products. We become our own best customers and our toughest critics. This translates into our passion for the brand, and our commitment to innovate and enhance the products we manufacture and design. That’s the story we’ve had to tell overseas and why we’ve been so successful.

TRADE EXPRESS: In recent years you have successfully opened up flagship Seafolly stores across the globe. How does this investment into ‘bricks and mortar’ work for Seafolly, when the retail industry is under strain?

There are some areas of retail that are under strain, while others are thriving. I’ve found niche products and niche brands are doing well in both physical retail stores and online.
Not everyone is able to buy online with confidence. Being able to go into a physical store is still relevant for the retail experience, especially for swimwear where service is so important. We’ve found that personalised service from a knowledgeable assistant is hard to replace when choosing one of our products.

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TRADE EXPRESS: What are the top three lessons you’ve learned for overcoming global uncertainty as an export business?

Firstly, it’s all about product. Focusing on product excellence is absolutely fundamental. Improving, refining and innovating our product has been central to our success.
Then, it’s about developing our brand and building consumer awareness to achieve brand equity in global markets. Thirdly, our supply chain logistics must be managed efficiently. For us, that means getting products into stores as quickly as we can.

TRADE EXPRESS: What role has DHL Express played in the success of Seafolly?

With DHL we’re achieving a 48 to 72-hour delivery into stores in any city in the world. That reliability in delivery is very, very important for a business like ours. We’re a summer business and we have a few short months in the northern hemisphere where it’s hot. Every single day counts. If we miss a day of sunshine that’s a day of business we’ll never get back. So our products need to be delivered into stores as quickly as possible.

TRADE EXPRESS: What exciting initiatives are on the horizon for Seafolly?

We will be opening more Seafolly stores internationally. We’re about to announce our second American store, and we’re currently looking for sites in key international cities in Europe. And next year we will celebrate our 40th birthday. We’ll be launching an exciting new campaign drawing on our proud history as part of Australian beach lifestyle and culture.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Seafolly website

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