Now more than ever, people want to stay healthy through exercise. This interest has helped make the active lifestyle market a solid niche for Fambrands, a Commerce, Calif.-based apparel company.
COO and Director of Global Sourcing Rich Campanelli says the company’s history goes back to 2000, when President and CEO Frank Zarabi started it as an intimate apparel firm. But five years later, when Fambrands refocused on sports bras, its business enjoyed a strong boost.
Afterwards, Fambrands began offering yoga pants, which also sold well. “Within three years of that time, we had moved from a small, intimate apparel company to an athletic company for women,” Campanelli recalls.
Another critical step was its 2008 purchase of the Marika brand, under which it offers women’s activewear, yoga and fitness accessories. Although Marika was not a household name, it was still a known brand in yoga wear circles, Campanelli asserts. After the acquisition, “We probably tripled the number of customers we had at that time,” he says.
Today, its brands also include the Tehama line of golf apparel and its Peace and Pearls contemporary apparel collection. Fambrands also has become the licensor of the Eddie Bauer brand.
Fambrands recently purchased the Bally Total Fitness name. “We were licensing that brand for a long time, and now we own [it] for any product distribution,” Campanelli says, noting that Fambrands is now personally producing women’s active, athletic and yoga apparel.
Dealing With Customers
Fambrands has taken a unique approach to its clients, Campanelli says. “Early on, we were very particular about the customers we wanted to sell to,” he recalls.
Campanelli notes that the company focused on clothing and wholesale retailers, including Sam’s Club. “We did not want to add more customers than we could handle with excellent service,” he says.
“When [Sam’s buys] an item, they buy it big,” he says. This allows Fambrands to mass-produce items for the wholesale retailer, giving it sourcing and buying efficiencies.
While Sam’s Club is a major customer of Fambrands, its customer base has diversified and includes T.J. Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Ross Dress for Less at the off-price tier, and specialty retailers, such as Lane Bryant Inc. and Chico’s. Fambrands also serves sporting goods retailers, such as DICK’s Sporting Goods and Big 5 Sporting Goods.
“We’ve always been very good with our customers and supporting them whenever necessary,” he says. “It’s always been a very fair and equitable partnership.”
Sourcing can be challenging for Fambrands, Campanelli admits. He explains that the company needs to maintain a dependable base of factories, but also must be prepared for economic changes that occur overseas.
For instance, the increase in the cost of labor in China has made Fambrands’ business more difficult. Campanelli notes that it is also hard to find factories that can handle Fambrands’ broad product range.
“You need factories that [can perform] quick turnarounds, which China is good for,” he says, “but we often need the prices that can be achieved in Bangladesh if we have the luxury of a little extra lead time.”
The firm also has to use factories that are Walmart-approved when producing for Sam’s and Eddie Bauer approved when sourcing under this brand. “[When] you’ve got all those situations – price, lead time, only utilizing factories that meet strict ethical sourcing standards, etc. – being thrown at you all the time, it’s a lot to juggle,” Campanelli admits.
Campanelli says Fambrands has grown approximately 50 percent per year in the past three years, which he admits is a “unique situation … for an apparel company.” However, he cautions the company will not grow as much this year.
“No one can continue that for a long time,” he admits. “We’re looking to have about 20 to 28 percent growth this year.”
Fambrands might achieve this growth through acquisitions of other brands or licensing deals. “Because we’re very profitable and well financed, we have those opportunities available to us,” he says.
“It’s always hard to know what that’ll bring in the short-term future,” he says. “But we’re pretty comfortable with the mid-20s.”