by Kate Gordon
Events Clothing in full flight in San Francisco, they were the third placed New Zealand boat
Events Clothing Company, an Auckland-based superyacht, marine and business clothing specialist is a finalist for the 2013 Auckland Export QBE Exporter of the Year (sales under $25 million) Award.
Little known in its home town, the company has grown from strength to strength, celebrating many successes since its start in 1991.
Events’ first big win was supplying uniforms to Team New Zealand in the 1995 America’s Cup challenge headed by the late Sir Peter Blake.
In 2011, as the company celebrated its 20th year in business, it secured a contract to supply the crew uniforms for one of the biggest motor yachts ever built in Europe – MY Serene, 134 metres in length and six levels high with a crew of 60.
Recently, the company launched their first European showroom in Palma de Mallorca, Spain as the result of a strategic alliance with Evolution Yacht Agents, where the two businesses operate side-by-side from the same premises close to Palma’s busy superyacht marina district. There are future plans to create a similar base in Barcelona.
Today, out of the top 200 superyachts* on the ocean, Events clothes 60 of them.
The primary success of Events Clothing is the product. 'All of our clothing products have a unique point of difference whether it is an eco-friendly element, resilience to U.V. or wear and tear – nothing is standard,' says owner Owen Rutter.
Another point of difference over competitors is that items can be custom made, such as incorporating the colourways of the ship or logos into the design of the uniforms. 'We don’t just stick a logo on a shirt; we can integrate desired elements into design, within the timeframes required.' Around 40 per cent of Event’s uniform items are custom-made.
Just like yacht racing the backbone of the organisation has been a stellar team and an ability to change tack when they need to. Every member of the team has an impressive history in the industry and most have been with the company over 10 years.
'The skills and knowledge of our team gives them an immediate rapport with clients and they trust that we understand the ins and outs of living and working on a superyacht.'
When the company was formed 20 years ago the fledging company’s prospective clients were hard-core yacht racing crews and the relatively untapped local corporate apparel market.
The exciting defence of the America’s Cup in New Zealand saw a significant increase in the number of superyachts visiting our shores.
'We saw an important international opportunity in this sector and the decision to develop new product lines for the superyacht sector set the company on a new course with a strong export focus,' says Rutter.
This ability to identify and adapt to market opportunities helped the business to weather the storm of recession. When the global recession hit in 2009, superyacht sales plateaued and it was the domestic corporate market that demonstrated growth. Events supply marine style uniforms for businesses such as marine seaquarime Kelly Tarlton’s and Fuller’s Ferries.
Despite this slight variation, Rutter says success comes from not being tempted to diversify too much along the way.
'If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s stick to your knitting. It’s very easy to be distracted by other opportunities, so we’ll keep doing what we do best – top quality, customised uniforms and technical clothing for the superyacht, marine and business sectors.'
Events Clothing are focussed on operational excellence. Recently, they migrated onto a cloud-based service and now have an international standard accounting and operations platform.
'We now have the ability to grow without needing to change our operating systems.'
This shift provides visibility of real-time information to the staff at the Palma office.
'The system has reduced double handling of data and provides a better service to customers. Our staff can process orders from any location and track it’s process through production ensuring deliveries are not only on time but are 100% correct.'
Line 7 deal close
The future of Events Clothing holds continued growth. The business is on the brink of signing a deal which will give them control and global rights to the iconic New Zealand brand Line 7, which they have worked closely with over the last 20 years.
'This is a coup for us and gives us command of a well trusted and recognised brand. The international opportunities are significant but we also want to offer kiwi boaties the chance to re-stock their marine wardrobes.'
This acquisition will lead the company into the new territory of e-commerce. 'There is work to do in creating a website that links with our systems and marketing ability. We have appointed a distributor in the United States so we will have three distribution points around the world. But we aren’t rushing into things, it will be a slow release with a tight product range that we know people will be interested in, then we’ll see how we go.'
Events Clothing were finalists for the same award back in 2007 but lost out to now-household name Phil and Ted’s baby care manufacturers. This year they are back to deal with the ‘unfinished business’ of the past.
'We have an even better story now, and people have encouraged us to enter saying we have a unique business so we thought we’d have another go.'
The 2013 Auckland Export Awards will be held on Friday 21 June at the Langham Hotel. Fellow marine specialists Southern Spars are finalists for the Commercialisation of Innovation for Export Award.