ABCs of B2C


ABCs of B2C

Published in the Scottsdale Airpark News

September 2009

Author: Kimberly Hundley

Killer Apparel Group

7585 E. Redfield Road, Suite 105, Scottsdale

(480) 248-9248

www.CarefreeCasuals.com, www.KillerChef.com Twitter @KillerChef

Laser focus. That’s what Aaron Tucker says took his online retail business to new heights in the midst of a recession.

“We opened our doors Sept. 1 of last year and will have generated about $1 million in revenue by the end of August,

which isn’t bad for our first year.”

Killer Apparel Group is now the parent company of three apparel websites: www.CarefreeCasuals.com, www.KillerChef.com and www.TrueUniform.com. When Tucker launched his new enterprise last year, he wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. He bought the company outright from Uniforms Manufacturing (UMI), the old family business he’d been involved with since his teen days.

After college, Tucker had tackled new markets for UMI, a longtime maker of industrial work and prison clothing. He targeted commercial businesses, landing clients such as Home Depot and Discount Tires, then braved the field of logoed apparel and other promotional products. His entrepreneurial mind always clicking away, he noticed a hole in the ad specialty marketplace.

An Idea Was Born

“There was a trend where bigger-name retailers were starting to produce products for this corporate apparel market,

but nobody was consolidating it into one area for repurchasing,” he says. Because high-end companies such as Cutter & Buck required promotional product distributors to have a direct account with them—and make a minimum purchase that might start at $5,000—smaller guys didn’t have the wherewithal to buy the clothing.

Tucker leaped into the void, committing to volume, pulling together brands and creating a one-stop-shop for the promotions industry.

In 2004, the products available were up on the Internet for all to see. The website had been geared for corporate customers conducting B2B transactions. And a funny thing happened. “I never thought someone  might want to buy one golf shirt with me,” Tucker says. “But they did. We were getting growth on the retail side.”

Realization

Tucker took measures to completely revise the site’s focus from a B2B to B2C, business to consumer. Product reviews and live chat were enabled to build client trust. The company threw out the purchasing methodology that allowed distributors to send in purchase orders that had to be hand-entered into the computer system. “We put the accountability on the customer as far as getting the order right,” Tucker says.

As more items were added, Carefree Casuals took shape as a top provider of “lifestyle fashions, lifestyle values.”

Shoppers were finding the familiar quality brands they loved—such as Tommy Bahama and Lee Jeans—at incredible prices.

“One way we found early traction was getting on some comparative shopping sites,” Tucker says. When savvy buyers visited sites such as www.Shopzilla.com, they would see Carefree Casuals’ deals listed next to competitors’ higher prices.

“We buy a lot of the same garments at cost that department stores would buy,” Tucker says of his merchandise offerings. “We get a discount because we are a reseller.”

Unlike brick-and-mortar stores or manufacturers, however, Carefree Casuals doesn’t have to stock inventory or worry about keeping up with seasonality. They operate lean and pass the savings on to the customer. “We’re really a data maintenance business,” Tucker explains. About 3,000 items, for example, are on both www.CarefreeCasuals.com and www.KillerChef.com. As prices, colors, and sizes come and go, a mountain of data must be maintained. Tucker outsources the majority of this task to a firm in India because it’s cost-effective, allowing Killer Apparel to operate with just six employees and keep up the profit-margin.

“I’ve heard of so many companies over-hiring, and staff sunk them because they felt obligated to keep these people employed rather than maintain the health of the business,” Tucker says. “When you’re in startup mode, every dollar makes a difference.”

Killer Time

Shortly after making cash-cow www.CarefreeCasuals.com his own, Tucker launched the hospitality-clothing line www.KillerChef.com. The timing could hardly have been worse as the recession rolled through hotels and restaurants.

Still, Tucker is optimistic the website will eventually prosper, because he sees a shimmering unfulfilled need.

A single billion-dollar company “pretty much owns” the hospitality industry’s apparel market, he explains. “We’re looking to chew at their heels a little bit and offer something we don’t believe they offer: local service.”

So far, Killer Chef is having more success with independently owned hotels than with franchises tied into big contracts. Recent clients include the Airpark’s Xona Resorts and Thunderbird Suites.

Before the end of the year, Killer Apparel Group will unveil its third site www.TrueUniform.com, focused on hunting gear, the outdoors and work apparel. The company will continue to focus on the four key factors that make its business model work: 1) product reviews 2) offer brands that shoppers know 3) build trust with product recommendations, reliable sizing charts and clear descriptions, and 4) a fair return policy.

Sitting at the helm of his own business has restored Tucker’s passion for his work. He credits the Entrepreneur’s Organization in the Valley for giving him the guidance and inspiration to finally break the family ties.

To others with independent dreams, he says, “As long as you’re laser focused on what you’re passionate about and your target market, I think you’ll be successful in almost any market.”

Tucker’s BIZ Tips

What should business owners and would-be entrepreneurs keep in mind as they chase their dreams? Aaron Tucker, director of Killer Apparel Group, offers this advice.

• Cash is king. You can only go as far as your cash.

• You don’t necessarily have to defer your dreams; you just have to make sure you’re very focused. When I decided it was time to leave my other business, I didn’t even think about going to get a job from someone else. I was preprogrammed that I was taking www.CarefreeCasuals.com. I was laser focused and continue to be. You can run your dream business out of your house, and you can do it part-time, but be laser focused on it.

• Read Norm Brodsky’s book The Knack. There is no such thing as job security anymore; the only security is your own sense of self-worth and your knowledge about how to earn a living.

• Make sure you are watching your numbers regularly. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so if you don’t have good numbers, you can run your company. Especially with an Internet business—there is a lot of analytics.

• While someone else is making cutbacks and trying to save themselves money, you have a great opportunity to get out there and compete.

 




Conditions of EO Membership Application and Renewal:
Every member who applies or renews their membership agrees to comply with the Policies and Procedures, Bylaws and Code of Conduct of Entrepreneurs' Organization. Current members must complete the online renewal form acknowledging review of the organization's Policies and Procedures, Bylaws and Code of Conduct.

Stay Connected

Fill out the contact information below to receive EO's newsletter.