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Homegrown and Heartfelt: The Budgy Smuggler Story | #136

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Experienced General Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the apparel and online retail industry. Skilled in Sales, Marketing, Administration, Management and Leadership. Strong sales professional with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) focused in Sports Management from International College of Management, Sydney.

Brenden shares the Budgy Smuggler journey from selling 1,000 pairs of smugglers a year to over 100,000 pairs internationally.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Brenden Hartmann, General Manager at Budgy Smuggler swimwear.  Who needs a great swathe of material billowing around your legs when a carefully positioned, streamlining triangle of lycra will do?!  The brand started out as a bit of a laugh in an Aussie backyard when some mates decided to write ‘Budgy Smuggler’ on the back of some speedo-style swimmers.  Growing from selling 1,000 pairs of smugglers a year to over 100,000 pairs internationally, Budgy Smuggler now has a kids and women’s range. In this chat, we discuss why it’s no brainer for Budgy Smuggler to keep the manufacturing process right here at home, why they regularly perform the ‘funny uncle’ test when assessing custom orders and why responding to customer suggestions will always be part of their business…unless that customer suggests producing board shorts…bloody oath! What are you thinking? Never!

Some customers try and tell us we should make boardshorts, which is just not gonna happen…that’s blasphemy!”

Brenden Hartmann

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How does the term ‘budgie smuggler’ translate overseas?
  • Why do you manufacture your swimwear here in Australia?
  • What’s been your most challenging custom-design project?

Stores as a ‘destination’

“So we always had it online, and we just followed the trends that we were seeing on our own online store. We had a strong base in Sydney, we had to focus on just looking after our own backyard because until you’re established with a strong consumer base, you’ve got nothing to really fall back on. So we focused locally, and that was where we had our first pop up store. We used to do them for long weekends – weekend before Christmas, Australia weekend and October long weekend and those sorts of things.

And then we did a longer pop up for about three months from November through to the end of January on Christmas, which was awesome. And we still had people turning up to our ‘office’ which was an apartment, looking to buy them months after we’d closed that pop up store, so that was our indicator to go, “Maybe we should give this a crack.” 

So we have two stores now, we have one in Manly, one in Bondi and hopefully soon some more, but we don’t necessarily look at them as sales locations. We see it almost like a home base or a destination for people that do follow the brand to go to.  They can physically see the pairs, there’s usually some pairs in there that haven’t come out yet, which is a nice little surprise for them when they do go in. They get to talk to people like our staff that just love the brand and they have some inside gos for them.  It’s more a place for people to go to – a destination rather than just a store.”

The Funny Uncle test

“There’s been some rogue, some really rogue images that will never be spoken of.  It’s one of those lines where you look at it and be like, “How many people would be upset by this?” There’s no objective measurement, it’s definitely subjective, but it’s kind of like, “This is probably going to annoy a few people, we probably shouldn’t do this.”  

It’s got our logo on it, we’ve still got some people to keep happy and that being our customers. We don’t really want families and whatnot seeing these things when they bought pairs for their kids, so there is a line. It’s almost like the funny uncle, the funny uncle can get away with a few things and still be happy with the kids.”

Homegrown

“We can go out to the factory and we can see things getting made. So we’ve been with the same supplier for 14, 15 years I think, probably longer, and if anything ever does go wrong which is rare, we can just drive over the bridge, it’s over in Marrickville Saint Peters area, show in person and say, “Hey, what happened?” And then they’re like, “Oh, I know exactly what happened.” And most of the time they can just fix it. Whereas, good luck doing that if you’re making them overseas for starters. 

It’s also preparing for the worst, which sometimes you need to be prepared for.  We’re not restricted or locked into huge minimum order quantities  So if we’re ordering we could order a couple of 100 units at a time. And that almost limits the damage if there was to be any, it’s a few 100 units as opposed to a few 1000 you’d have to commit to overseas.

Turnarounds is another one, by the time you’re designing for overseas it could be six to 12 weeks depending on where you order from, and then also add on the shipping time and that stuff. Our turnaround for our own stock, we’ve got that in a slower, we’ll call it the slow lane, it’s less urgent, we’ve got that coming through about five or six weeks at the moment. And that’s big, big stock orders coming into summer, and we do custom swimwear for people as well. So, bucks parties, birthdays, footy teams, surf clubs, schools, weddings, I mentioned weddings, we turn those around in about three weeks.

So it’s just opened the doors to so many things, and I mentioned we’ve been with the same providers or suppliers for a number of years, the costs have actually come down relatively to a similar price to what you would make overseas for. And then that difference in costs you just put down to less headaches.”

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