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The Insight booth was crowded at ASR as the Australian brand continues to generate buzz in the market.
I talked with Insight USA CEO Jesse Faen about how the business has changed in the past six months, and met Nathan Butcher. Nathan, Insight's global sales manager, worked with Insight in Australia for 17 years and moved six months ago to California to head up sales for North, Central and South America. Nathan also has a design background, so is helping Insight tweak product for the U.S. market. Insight sells a full clothing line for men and women here.
Here's an update from Jesse on the business.
Fashion/boutique channel: From the start, Insight landed in the "A" stores, including Fred Segal, Villains and others. The clothing is designed in Australia and ahead of the curve and the fashion boutiques here snapped it up. Jesse said the tough economy is actually helping its business in this channel because Insight's price points are lower than the premium brands carried in the stores. New boutiques continue to pick up the line, and at Project, Insight was booked with back-to-back appointments, Jesse said.
Core market: The buzz surrounding Insight has now trickled down to consumers at the core level, Jesse said. Winning two SIMA awards this year for breakthrough brand of the year and for its men's marketing campaign, in addition to editorial coverage of the brand, has helped with sell through.
"The ASR (channel) is so marketing driven, it takes time to penetrate it," he said. And since it's a young brand here with a limited marketing budget, the awards and stories have really helped.
Jesse said stores like Jack's from day one have given the brand a lot of support, but because the consumer wasn't that familiar with the brand, the clothes were not flying off the shelves. Now, the brand is getting a better response, he said.
More core stores are now open to talking with Insight, and some are even paying more promptly. "We're not at the bottom of the list anymore," Jesse said. "We definitely not first, but we're not at the very bottom."
Open ears: Insight is trying hard to learn from other Australian brands who have come to America and failed. When it comes to product, Jesse said they are trying hard to listen to retailers and tweak its line to match the market here.
Nathan is also helping with that effort, Jesse said. He has a product background, so Insight designers in Australia are more open to Nathan's suggestions, Jesse said.
Nathan told me Insight's U.S. business has grown to the point it can now break off from Europe and make a separate production run for the U.S. which will allow Insight to make tweaks to clothing when needed.
I asked Jesse and Nathan for an example of how they are adapting the line. Jesse said they have learned to keep something that is working in upcoming lines. For example, Insight's colorful flannels have been a sellout. Now, the company is updating the look somewhat but still keeping it as a key piece instead of moving on.
"We need to understand the U.S. culture and the key components in the a U.S. line but not lose the Australian flair," Jesse said.
Jesse said there is a desire to hire designers specifically for this market, but demand for Insight will dictate when that happens.
The business of the business: Jesse estimates Insight USA currently has 300 to 400 accounts, representing 500 to 600 doors.
Revenues will grow 50 percent from spring 2008 to spring 2009, Jesse said. The company estimates the momentum will continue, and Nathan is currently mapping out the brand's long term plan - where the brand wants to be and the resources and financing they will need to make it happen. (They declined to disclose revenues for the US or Insight's worldwide revenues.)
Big national chains have expressed interest in Insight, but Jesse and Nathan have declined the overtures thus far, though they are flattered by the interest.
"It's not right for us now," Jesse said. "We don't want to jump the gun."
"Our goal is organic growth," Nathan said. "We want brand longevity."