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Mar 15, 2019

Target Dry - A packaway success and a new focus on the coast

Gareth Stewart, operations director at Target Dry, talks to Mark Hayhurst about the company, the future of Mac in a Sac and new brand Lighthouse

Can you tell us the history of the company?

Established in 1987, Target Dry is a Belfast-based textiles company that specialises in the design of technical outdoor apparel. Since its inception there has always been a strong emphasis on great design, quality and value for money and, to this day, that is still central to the company’s ethos.

In the mid-90’s Mac in a Sac was introduced to the range and fast became a best seller. Initially, Mac in a Sac was a Target Dry product but in 2004 a decision was taken to separate the two brands and Mac in a Sac became a brand in its own right. Today Mac in a Sac is one of the most internationally recognised packaway brands and is sold in over 40 countries around the world.

Target Dry as a brand continued to grow throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, but over the last ten years as the retail landscape has dramatically changed, growth has been much more difficult. As multiples started to dominate the outdoor market within the UK and many brands started opening up own brand stores, it was clear that the future of the Target Dry brand was going to be limited, so Lighthouse was introduced to take the company in a new direction.

Lighthouse, as a brand, was primarily developed to help the company move from an outdoor market that was becoming increasingly difficult into the coastal leisurewear market that was much more buoyant.

The brand still focuses around creating technical outdoor apparel and maintains a strong emphasis on design, quality and value, but the products themselves are now aiming more towards the coastal leisurewear market.

The last three years has seen the company turnover grow by just over 40 per cent, largely due to the growth of the Mac in a Sac brand and the successful introduction of Lighthouse.

How is your company developing and growing?

The focus of our business has been largely based on developing export markets for Mac in a Sac, expanding the Mac in a Sac offer and establishing Lighthouse within the UK and Ireland. Lighthouse has allowed us to target a completely new demographic with the UK and Ireland and we are now starting to explore export territories for this brand as well. E-commerce is also an area for growth and within the next five years, we hope to grow that side of the business so that it represents a much larger proportion of the companies overall turnover.

Have there been any recent developments that have changed your company’s profile?

Yes, I think the introduction of Lighthouse has changed our company profile considerably. We still service the outdoor market but Lighthouse has allowed us to change the market in which we operate. We have diversified the Mac in a Sac offer, so the range is not just focused on waterproofs. Diversifying into products such as the Polar RDS Down jacket has made Mac in a Sac much more of an all year round brand.

What inspires you to create new products, how do you develop them and bring them to the market?

I think it’s a combination of two things. One, if you don’t develop new product you won’t be here in two or three years. You’re only as good as your last range! I’ve been with the company for over 14 years and the retail landscape has changed dramatically in that time. Many big companies have been and gone and if it has taught me one thing it is that you can’t take anything for granted. No matter how big or established you are it can all unravel very quickly if you take your eye of the ball, so making sure our range is strong and competitively priced every season is essential.

Two, we have pride in what we do and that continually drives us to want to do better. There is a lot of great clothing brands out there at the moment and we want to be one of them.

What can we expect from your company in the next 12 months?

We have some exciting new products coming for both the Lighthouse and Mac in a Sac brands. With Lighthouse we are diversifying our offer every season and we’re introducing our first RDS Down jacket to the range later this year. At OutDoor by Ispo, in June, we will also be showcasing our most exciting Mac in a Sac range to date - so we’re really excited about that.

How has the outdoor market changed in the last five years?

I think the outdoor market is now much more discount driven. Many brands have been going direct to retail and together with the multiples the outdoor market is much tougher place to operate in that it was five years ago.

What advice would you offer to retailers?

Diversify your products so your shop has something unique to offer. Far too often, I think, retailers are offering the same brands and products to the customer. Also, get the right staff. If your staff are knowledgeable and well trained then your customer experience will be much better. I think this is particularly important for smaller independents, because you can no longer afford to have a badly merchandised store and poor service.

What services and support do you offer retailers who stock your product?

We try to make our range as appealing and attractive to retailers as possible. We design and develop bespoke stands for both the Mac in a Sac and Lighthouse ranges and make them available to our retailers. Branded hangers and POS are also available to ensure the brands can be well merchandised in store. We also have a team of sales representatives and agents visiting stores and showcasing our new collections and no minimums for placing orders.

What trends do you predict will be popular in the coming year?

Within the Lighthouse range we think that there is still a trend for the rubberised jackets. We have four rubberised styles in Lighthouse range in the S/S19 range. We also feel there is still a big demand for Down, so you’ll see evidence of that in both our collections as well. We have a reversible Down jacket and gilet in the Mac in a Sac range and a ladies’ Down jacket in the Lighthouse range called Lara. All of our Down jackets use RDS certified Down, so its ethically sourced, and ensures no live plucking and it is also fully traceable.

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