Australian brand Work Out Life was launched in August 2012 with grand plans to become a global business supplying fashion-inspired women’s active wear, mainly via its wholesale clothing inventory and ecommerce site. Peter Wilson and his partner felt compelled to do something about the generic women sports wear available in the market, which were all worn like a uniform. They decided that the market needed a change, and conceptualised the business idea to provide more fashion forward sports wear to plug that gap.
We had a chance to speak to Peter, CEO of Work Out Life to get to know the story behind the brand and how the company came to fruition. As CEO, he is responsible for all operations from manufacturing items to controlling clothing inventory, to overseeing distribution and sales on various retail channels.
Work Out Life employs the Hybrid business model, where they take on both roles of being a wholesaler (to mostly resellers in Australia and the US) and an ecommerce retailer, selling clothing inventory in both physical and online markets.
It took some time to get the new online brand noticed and known in the market. Their marketing strategy revolves around recruiting well-known celebrities and individuals to become brand ambassadors and wear the garments to ‘get them out there’ via their personal blogs and social media platforms. For instance, the company has an on-going Ambassador programme targeted at owners and managers of yoga or fitness studios.
Also, considerable effort was pumped in on the PR front to achieve publicity on print media such as magazines (including Vogue) and online publications like fashion blogs. The traction gained helped raise the brand’s profile among customers and allowed the business to take off with continued sales growth.
Work Out Life’s customer base is mainly made up of women between 25 to 40 years old, mostly from Australia, the US, and UK. The market seems big but the industry is highly competitive. The sports wear scene has changed rapidly, especially in the last two years, providing a lot more choices to satisfy the growing market.
With their key focus on quality on fabric and construction, Work Out Life uses a lot of high quality European fabrics produced by mills in Italy and Portugal for their garments, while most of the manufacturing of their clothing inventory (up to 40,000 units a year) takes place in Europe, where there is a good tradition of craftsmanship and textile. In fact, some of the bigger fashion brands get their product prototyping done over there as well.
Though it would cheaper to outsource the manufacturing from countries like India or China, Work Out Life can be guaranteed of much better clothing inventory should the manufacturing be carried out in Europe, which is worth the pay off. It is also easier to monitor the process and operations.
When asked how a young company like Work Out Life has managed to establish relationships with retailers and stockists, Peter replied, “A lot of retailers came to us actually, which is bit surprising. We haven’t really had to use agents. The retailers found us through our marketing activities, which have created awareness and generated enquiries.”
Besides having to overcome challenges getting their name out in the market, Work Out Life also struggled with getting vendors and manufacturers to take them seriously in the beginning, as the fashion industry is populated with companies that come and go.
“It happened to be the biggest problem. When you say that you’re a new business and you’d like them to do work for you, they are often slow to want to help. So it’s a matter of perseverance and selling your story to get them to supply to you,” says Peter. In addition, some of the Work Out Life staff had relationships and connections in the manufacturing line beforehand, which were used to establish networks with factories to supply them with products.
As Work Out Life continues to grow and scale, Peter remarked that perseverance and being adequately capitalised are essential because running a fashion business is expensive and instantaneous success is an exception rather than the norm. “It takes a lot of hard work and tenacity, and you need to have pockets deep enough to carry through.”
The most effort-intensive process happened to be garment production and working with factories to ensure that the right outcome was achieved for the brand's clothing inventory. An insane amount of effort went into corresponding and collaborating with a total of eight suppliers for fabrics and four factories for manufacturing. Work Out Life started out with long-term partnerships in mind to win over the hearts and minds of vendors by meeting them in person whenever they can and keeping them in constant communication.
In addition, Work Out Life has been using the Shopify ecommerce platform for their online shopping website, and chanced upon TradeGecko’s cloud-based inventory management system via the Shopify-TradeGecko system integration, which was a timely discovery because they were just looking for a simple application to manage stock levels in their warehouse. Since then, they have also started using the Xero accounting system that is integrated with TradeGecko. This usage of Shopify-TradeGecko-Xero three-party integration system automates processes and takes steps out of backend operations.
As a TradeGecko user of a year, “The experience has been very positive and the system is certainly becoming more and more useful with additional features introduced on top of the Mobile Sales App that was launched. There is a lot less effort on our part using TradeGecko, especially with the Shopify and also Xero integrations, and it certainly suits our current needs,” says Peter.
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