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Online streetwear venture riding wave in Raglan

Whale Bay resident Steve Crowhurst hasn’t looked back since the day he “took the big punt”, quit his job in the south of England and returned to Raglan to set up his own online streetwear company. Now he’s getting close on 40,000 visits a month to his website Fallenfront and hopes to grow the business to become a leader in men’s fashion in New Zealand.

The 31-year-old Otago University graduate – schooled at Te Mata, looks to be well on the way.
He set up shop barely 18 months ago and now stocks, for the 16 to 30-year-old male, lifestyle clothing from premium brands like I Love Ugly, Huffer, Just Another Fisherman and Ksubi – an Aussie fashion label specialising in denim and accessories.

A quick look at the website shows new-style pants, shorts, singlets, tees, denim and caps on offer. Shoes from Urge and New Balance complement the clothing range, and there are accessories such as sunnies and wallets to add to the online shopping experience.

“I pinched myself I was able to establish a new company,” the 31-year-old told the Chronicle last weekend, just back in town after attending the Big Day Out in Auckland.
“But doing it out of Raglan … that’s magic!”

Steve’s not new to the clothing industry – in fact he has seven years’ experience under his…er… belt.

First, fresh out of university, he worked in the manufacturing side of Adidas NZ.
“I was quite young,” he admits. But as production manager in charge of 80 staff, the job suited him. “Good job, good pay, nice Auckland lifestyle.” And worth putting off a planned overseas surfing trip for, he adds.

Steve then moved into sales for Dickies clothing in Parnell and organised his OE to Central America. During that trip he got a call from the Adidas manufacturing plant asking could he do some contract work in China. “So they put me up in an apartment (in Shanghai) and I worked as a quality consultant between New Zealand and the Chinese factory.”

Steve’s contract finished the day before the Beijing 2008 Olympics opened, he recalls, allowing him to cash in on the thrill of attending the Games.

Work took him next to Cornwall – “right on the beach” – in the south of England where Steve was looking after sales for Quicksilver, a global company billed as the ‘premium youth lifestyle and culture clothing brand’.

That was where he was selling to big, online companies and saw not only the opportunity to do the same thing in New Zealand but “more importantly to do it right out of Raglan, my hometown where I wanted to be”.

Steve planned his move back in 2012 while in the UK, then took the punt. It’s paid off. And the cool thing, he says, is he’s not limited geographically. “The whole of New Zealand’s my market … and the world.”

Overseas sales can account for as much as 20 percent of his monthly orders, he says.
Visits to the Fallenfront site in December last year were at 36,000 – up from 11,000 in the same month the year before. While every visit will not convert into a sale, he explains, if the website’s good you get a higher conversion rate and that of course boosts turnover and profitability.

Most Fallenfront visits come from New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK, he adds.
Steve’s now focused on expanding his range, and can employ a few young locals to help him along the way. He’s delighted with the steady growth so far, he says, which is dependent on demand as the Kiwi consumer becomes more aware of online shopping.

The hardest thing about being a retailer, he reckons, is deciding how much stock to get from his mostly New Zealand wholesalers. “All my money’s tied up in stock and that’s the scary thing.”
But he likes to offer the best deal he can to buyers which means free overnight shipping in New Zealand – with one to two days to Australian customers, three to five days to the rest of the world – and free returns.

The customer need never worry it’s not going to fit right, says Steve of his clothing range. “And that’s the hardest thing about buying online.”

E Symes

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