How 2XU’s Co-Founder Replicated Apparel & Digital Success With SAINT

April Davis By April Davis | 04 Mar 2019

The Co-Founder of sporting apparel company, 2XU, has built on his fabric technology knowledge to replicate 2XU’s success in the protective motorbike gear space. Find out how e-commerce has helped SAINT grow its local and international product offering.

Speaking to Power Retail, Aidan Clarke, co-founder of 2XU and now co-founder of SAINT, details SAINT’s business model and how an omnichannel sales approach has helped the brand scale to new heights.

“In 2005, I co-founded sporting apparel company 2XU with a vision of creating a high-performance brand that utilised the latest fabric technology. During that time, we found that a number of brands were nailing their casual sporting collections, however, not many were focusing specifically on high-performance products,” Clarke explains.

Discovering a gap in the market, the 2XU development team decided to take a more scientific approach in their product development, to establish a brand that provided stylish and functional sporting apparel that actually delivered on its functionality promises.

Fabric innovation was to thank for 2XU’s success, which is exactly what Clark says he’s using to develop his new brand, SAINT.

“Fabric innovation is what allowed us to dominate in this space and is something that I have continued to explore with SAINT. We feel we have the tiger by the tail again, with a disruptive and fast-growing brand that has expanded at triple-digit rates for the last few years. Given the power of social media and e-commerce, more than half the business is online,” he says.

Tired and un-inspired by the “old-fashioned” motorbike gear that was dominating the market, SAINT was determined to develop gear that wasn’t “bulky, hot and boring”.

“The more we looked into what was out there, the more we noticed a lot of it didn’t offer the best protection for riders and we saw an opportunity to develop stylish and protective single layer gear designed specifically for riders.

“Fabric innovation and development is at the core of the brand and is the key point of our business model that continues to set us apart. We spent a lot of time and money in the initial stages investing in R&D to create the world’s first single layer CE rated safety denim that uses Dyneema, the world’s strongest fibre,” Clarke explains.

“Our fabric innovation has given us the opportunity to explore other gaps in the market and has led us to our latest workwear range, Saint Works. The range offers workwear that is 500 percent tougher than anything else on the market.  We’ve again combined cool form with tough function, and this has led to rocketing sales in workwear.”

Establishing a Successful Online Brand

Looking first at the online space, SAINT has developed an omnichannel sales channel that has seen the brand expand across Australia and into the US.

“We launched our online platform first, it gave us an inexpensive way to get the product out there as we were starting up and first establishing the brand. Our flagship store opened in February 2017 and is a great way for us to demonstrate to customers how tough the fabric is, giving customers the opportunity to touch and test it out for themselves,” he says.

According to Clarke, launching SAINT’s online store was a no brainer thanks to the instant and scalable nature of the e-commerce industry.

“Introducing an online store was a no-brainer, we saw the opportunity to engage with both an Australian and international audience via our E-Commerce offering and the US market remains a huge driver of sales for us. The great aspect of digital marketing and sales with a start-up is the ability to have instant feedback and success indication. We can see if our messaging has worked, gauge response and conversion, and modify our demand generation tactics on the fly.”

SAINT’s online investment has become a fruitful one, with Clarke saying that 50 percent of the business’s overall revenue now comes from online channels. However, he does note that bricks-and-mortar is still a highly valuable channel for the motorbike apparel company.

“We believe there’s a place for both bricks and mortar and that they can complement each other nicely – if done correctly. We put a lot of effort into our physical stores to ensure our customers have a unique experience once they visit the store. For example, we recently held a pop-up shop on Chapel Street in Melbourne where customers could drive their motorbikes directly into the shop!

“There are elements you can create at physical stores that cannot be achieved via online channels. The tangible offering for customers is crucial for a brand like ours given the uniqueness of our product and toughness that is easier for our customers to experience in person. We aim for a consistent message and brand-feel between our physical stores and website so customers have a consistent experience.”

Using Social Media to Engage Physical and Digital Shoppers

While both SAINT’s online and physical presence has helped the brand scale quite quickly, Clarke also believes social media and marketing has had a huge impact on the brand’s success so far.

“Our online store has contributed greatly to the overall success of Saint and has given us the chance to break into a number of overseas markets, but social media channels have also been a huge driver for the store and really given consumers a sense for what the brand is all about,” he says.

“Our social media and marketing activity has played a huge role in growing the online store, with Instagram driving the most traffic to our store. From early on we knew that creating our own unique content would be key in setting us apart from competitors and ensuring we could show our balanced offering of protection and style in a way that felt like us. You’ll see this reflected in our social media content, as well as the blog on our website.”

E-Commerce Challenges, Achievements and International Acclaim

Like most new brands, SAINT had to face a number of challenges in the early days of its business. How to forecast and indent its sales better, was particularly challenging for the company given its unique business model and dedication to providing high-quality goods.

“Early on we blind ordered much of the stock based on confidence, however, when it arrived we found a huge difference between the styles and sizes ordered and actual sales rate. We were forced to learn how to forecast and indent better, which typically comes with time and historical sales to reference. It took 18 months of hard work to clear this stock however, it was a valuable lesson for us. We also learnt quickly that accurate size tables were critical to a good service experience and avoiding costly returns,” Clarke says.

Despite early challenges, Clarke is thrilled with what the business has achieved to date. International expansion, for example, has represented a large portion of SAINT’s sales, particularly in the online arena.

“Our online store has enabled us to expand into overseas markets, with particularly great success in the US market where 60 percent of our online sales are generated.

“Whilst the diversity of countries discovering and ordering our product online is a constant thrill, we’ve also been surprised with a number of high profile celebrities that enjoy motorcycling and ordered directly from us,” he exclaims.

When looking to international markets, Clarke says English speaking countries are the easiest wins because content and assets can easily be re-purposed for these audiences.

“The challenge has been finding partners to help us broaden our appeal. We are excited about the prospect of several new international partners translating our e-commerce into other languages and cultures in 2019.

“We want the Saint brand to be a household name globally! We see the value in both our physical stores and our e-commerce store as we believe they can complement one another – if done properly. However, we will always retain a wholesale channel as well. We love working with cool and edgy resale partners to tell the Unbreakable Saint story to their communities.”

Moving forward, SAINT is also looking at expanding its network of bricks-and-mortar locations, while continuing to grow and develop its international and online channels.

“We know we are very privileged to be working on a brand and product like Saint. Our passion for innovative and tough fabric has appeared to resonate with a broad audience in both moto and workwear. We enjoy sharing our unbreakable brand with a growing community and equipping tough and stylish people in a product that complements their lifestyle.”

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