Shipping specialist helps clothier sell to world
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Last year, the Boulder-based company, which prides itself on its made-in-America offerings, began shipping its wares to more than 200 countries with the help of international shipping specialist iGlobal Stores.
Fresh Produce has been in business for nearly three decades. Founders Thom and Mary Ellen Vernon got their start selling silk-screened T-shirts at a booth at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Long Beach, California. Today, the company has grown to nearly 400 full- and part-time employees and 25 company-owned retail stores. Fresh Produce clothing and accessories also are available at more than 500 independent retailers throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, and in the company's online store, which launched in 2008.
One thing that sets the brand apart is its commitment to offering clothing that's made in America.
"More than 80 percent of our clothes are made in the USA," said senior marketing manager Tia Mattson. "It's what we've done for the last 28 years, and it's something we are very proud of." In fact, this June, the company created three limited-edition "Made in the USA" T-shirts to celebrate its American-made merchandise.
The majority of Fresh Produce's manufacturing, dyeing, storage and shipping takes place in southern California. But it wasn't just patriotism that drove the decision.
"It's critical that our products be made in the USA, because it gives us a lot more control over the manufacturing process than if they were made overseas," Mattson said. This is especially important when it comes to the dyeing process, she said, since the "coastal-inspired" colors are a cornerstone of the brand and are achieved through a complex coloring process that needs to be closely monitored.
Domestic manufacturing also allows the company to quickly restock its most popular items and colors throughout the season, resulting in higher sales. It cuts costs, she said, since production is based on actual orders rather than on estimates, resulting in less surplus inventory and fewer markdowns.
The company knows that its customers want to be able to buy American. In a survey, two-thirds of Fresh Produce shoppers said they are more likely to buy clothing that is made in the United States.
Also through listening to its customers, Fresh Produce decided to start shipping outside the country.
"We're a big resort brand, with a lot of our sales in resort areas," Mattson said. "We started hearing from people from outside the country who had bought our clothes while vacationing in the U.S. and Caribbean but then couldn't get more of them when they got back home."
After receiving hundreds of phone calls, emails and social-media messages, the company started looking into ways it could ship its products internationally without the hassle that process usually entails. In May 2011, Fresh Produce formed a partnership with iGlobal Sales, a global export company in Salt Lake County, Utah. Although most of Fresh Produce's international sales are to Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, iGlobal gives the company the ability to ship to customers throughout the world.
"iGlobal gives us an easy way to ship internationally, because they take care of the customs paperwork and logistics," explained Mattson. "It's an easy, seamless shipping process."
The arrangement is fairly simple: iGlobal buys the company's products at a discounted price and sells them to its international consumers for the original sale prices and with competitive shipping rates.
Global customers shop through Fresh Produce's regular online store, then click "International Checkout" when they're ready to purchase. At that point, they can choose their shipping destination and use iGlobal's duties-and-taxes calculator and real-time currency converter to arrive at a shipping cost.
Mattson said Fresh Produce's online revenue has grown by 200 percent during the past two years. Although international sales make up only a small part of the company's revenue, she said, the partnership with iGlobal Stores has opened the doors to bigger growth opportunities for the company.
"Now that we can ship internationally, we've begun expanding our marketing efforts," Mattson said. Those efforts include an online advertising campaign in Canada that launched in May — a first for the company.
At the same time, the company continues to expand its reach in the United States. By the end of summer, Fresh Produce plans to open retail stores in Pasadena, California and in the Mall of Georgia outside Atlanta.
"The brand," Mattson said, "is definitely at a pivotal point of expansion."
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