Introduce your business and tell us your story: How did you decide on what to sell, and how did you source your products?
We started as a wholesale garment and accessories business in 2011 and had some surprisingly strong success straight off the bat in Japan and the UK (selling at major boutiques and department stores). What we make is high-quality outdoor and sports clothing that is also fashionable for everyday citywear. We think there was a hunger in the men's fashion industry for this kind of practical but stylish clothing and we hit the niche at just the right time.
After the buzz about our clothing started reaching North America more, we saw the opportunity to increase our revenue by doing our own retail in addition to adding wholesale accounts. We started off VERY SMALL, basically only selling items left over from wholesale production. Starting with this season (Fall/Winter 2015), we actually started placing production orders for our own retail store. We are looking forward to seeing how we can continue to grow and establish a presence in the North American market. And based on strong demand from UK, European, Korean, and Japanese customers, we have recently started shipping internationally instead of only domestically.
We mostly work with factories in New York City's garment district (all within a 2 or 3 block radius of our office). We also have some factories in other U.S. states for accessories, and starting with Spring/Summer 2016, we are producing a portion of our knit collection in Canada. It is very important to us that the quality and detail level of our clothing and accessories be kept high, so we like to keep everything close so that we can keep an eye on it. We also like to make sure that everything we produce is made under humane working conditions and that the travel distance/carbon footprint is as reduced as it can be in today's manufacturing environment.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
We were fortunate to have several independent blogs and magazines visit our first collection and start posting pictures and reviews of our clothing. This was actually really lucky because back then, the company consisted of only our designer, Shinya Hasegawa, and he did not have time to do much beside make the clothes. But before he started Battenwear, he was assistant designer under Daiki Suzuki for Woolrich Woolen Mills, so those people who knew about his work were interested to see what his independent brand would look like. We get a lot of referrals from major media websites who feature us (GQ, Wall Street Journal, Complex Mag, etc) and from Facebook, Reddit. To be honest, we just basically put some items on our website and didn't do much to drive people to us. That's of course a huge waste of opportunity, so we've now hired people who are helping us strategize and start really making a business out of this.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
So far, just the basics (like Facebook Store, POS, etc), but we just started adding more apps that are going to help us be more efficient and effective. Initially, we used a warehouse. We have just moved everything in house, to better handle and better do customer service.
What are your top recommendations for new store owners?
Be more prepared than we were. Realize when you are missing out on major opportunities. And Shopify is really easy and fun to use.