Officeworks to sell customised clothing

ONTHEGO (OTG) has been given the green light to expand its partnership with Wesfarmers into the conglomerate’s Officeworks business.

Earlier this year, Wesfarmers acquired an equity stake in the customised apparel business, using the startup initially as a vehicle to grow online capabilities in its Workwear Group and launch new product categories.

The Officeworks deal signals the potential for growth that Wesfarmers sees. The first phase of the rollout will be focused on integrating OTG into the Officeworks website. The second phase will involve installing kiosks in the retailer’s physical stores nationwide.

“We have quite a long term view [with] Officeworks,” OTG’s chief executive Mick Spencer told IRW. “[Initially], we will integrate custom apparel into the ‘print and copy’ section of the Officeworks website, and from there we will help the Officeworks sales teams take advantage of that.”

Officeworks already enables small-to-medium businesses to design business cards and print banners, signage and other personalised items, so adding customisable uniforms is a logical next step to becoming a one-stop-shop for smaller retailers looking to create their own brand.

“The second phase will be plugging into their store format, with the first release in early 2019,” Spencer said.

“We’ll take various sized kiosk setups into Officeworks stores, whether that be a small, medium or large format store, and that will take place over the next 12 to 18 months across Australia.”

The kiosks will allow Officeworks shoppers to customise a set of clothes using a digital display, and, depending on the customer’s needs and the products ordered, the goods will be manufactured either in Australia or overseas. Customers can choose from a range of sports jerseys, hats, duffel bags, backpacks, drink bottles or, in the case of Officeworks, customised uniforms.

Spencer said the partnership with a major retailer like Wesfarmers was always part of the startup’s growth strategy.

“It’s all been a part of the strategy and partnering up with the big guys to get the volume, and to be able to put our platform under the ringer in the way of capability proofing,” he said.
“We’ve always been focused on being a large company, and we know that to do that there’s a direct mode ourselves, but then also there’s reducing our marketing costs and partnering up with people who have multimillion dollar businesses.”

Looking toward the horizon

According to Spencer, the Wesfarmers deal doesn’t have to end with Officeworks, with apparel customisation at Kmart being entirely possible, and Bunnings offering a “massive opportunity” with customised high-vis workwear.

“If I fast forward five years there’s obviously going to be a huge amount of potential there, and the great thing is Wesfarmers are all really keen on this young, ambitious company that they’ve got access to,” he said.

Outside of the partnership with Wesfarmers, the next goal for OTG is international expansion with a short term focus on moving into South East Asia and New Zealand, and a longer term goal of entering the UK, Europe or North American market.

“The challenge is also that we’ve got customers coming in from everywhere. We want to be very planned in our outbound approach because we still have a lot of wood to chop in Australia, but we want to start to take the innovation to the next phase overseas,” Spencer said.

OTG hasn’t spent a dollar on overseas marketing, and yet has seen strong organic growth from international buyers to the point that 15 per cent of revenue comes from offshore.

A customer can be anywhere, said Spencer, as people all over the world want to create uniforms for their business, and will do it online because the uniform industry has been behind-the-times – which has created a global opportunity for the business.

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