Moral fi­bres

The world­wide hunger for re­spon­si­bly pro­duced fash­ion has seen a Kiwi cou­ple’s busi­ness go from strength to strength

Element - - Fashion - By Re­becca Blithe

For a Mount Maun­ganui-based cou­ple, start­ing up an online on­estop shop for na­ture-in­spired prod­ucts has be­come a lu­cra­tive busi­ness ven­ture, on a global scale.

Con­rad Cran­field and his wife Natalie are the pair be­hind Na­ture Shop, an online re­tailer sell­ing premium cloth­ing, home­ware and or­ganic skin­care and cloth­ing for chil­dren.

In just three years the Car­boNZero com­pany has grown at an as­tro­nom­i­cal rate, earn­ing it sec­ond place in the most re­cent Deloitte Fast 50 awards.

Back in 2007, Cran­field, an e-com­merce de­vel­oper, and his wife who has a back­ground in graphic de­sign, be­gan re­search­ing what was sell­ing well online.

“We didn’t know what we were go­ing to sell, but be­lieved we had some re­ally good online sell­ing strate­gies. We looked for prod­ucts that we could sell com­pet­i­tively out of New Zealand to an in­ter­na­tional tar­get mar­ket. We did lots of re­search on search vol­umes and the re­cur­ring themes were sheep­skin and wool. Sheep­skin boots had mas­sive search vol­umes.”

From here the brand EMU Aus­tralia was se­cured and they be­gan their first sup­ply con­tract.

The pair ex­pected it would take two to three years for their ven­ture to be­come their main busi­ness. But af­ter the first month sales rung up over $15,000, jumped to $50,000 the fol­low­ing month and reached $100,000 by the third.

As Cran­field puts it: “We took off from there. We grew 1106 per cent over three years.”

The com­pany has ex­panded to stock Kiwi brands in­clud­ing Ice­breaker and Na­ture Baby and main­tains a fo­cus on sup­pli­ers with a sus­tain­able con­science.

“The orig­i­nal glue which held our prod­uct mix to­gether was nat­u­ral fi­bre prod­ucts, how­ever we have evolved this to be na­ture-in­spired prod­ucts from en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble com­pa­nies.”

Cran­field says while they don’t find peo­ple search­ing for “green prod­ucts” he de­scribes their typ­i­cal cus­tomer as some­one who cares about the environment “but in a main­stream greeny way.”

“It’s a con­tin­ual evo­lu­tion to be en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble and peo­ple do seem to be af­ter a higher qual­ity of pro­duc­tion, and they want things that last for a longer time. It’s at the core of our whole ethos re­ally.”

Na­ture Shop now sells to cus­tomers the world over, and with huge at­ten­tion com­ing from the north­ern hemi­sphere, the com­pany has re­cently set up a ware­house in the UK, se­cur­ing brands like Tim­ber­land and Patag­o­nia to ex­pand into the Euro­pean mar­ket.

“The north­ern hemi­sphere has a far larger and more af­flu­ent mar­ket. We wanted to be able to pro­vide much bet­ter ser­vice to our cus­tomer. We wanted to bring down ship­ping costs and re­duce our car­bon foot­print.”

All go­ing to plan, this year will see the launch of a Ger­man ver­sion of the web­site and in two years’ time Cran­field says it is ex­pected Na­ture Shop will have ex­panded into the Asian mar­ket.

Above: Cloth­ing from Ice­breaker’s

spring/sum­mer 2012 col­lec­tions.

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