Last Chance Sportswear is phasing out the company's consumer operations to focus entirely on private label and corporate apparel sales, Terry Hillegas told SNEWS in late July.
Hillegas purchased the company, which was founded in 1991, in 1998, but despite strong grassroots appeal among retail employees, his company has struggled to gain sufficient buy-in from retailers to remain profitable. Last Chance reports that it will ship all goods retailers have ordered for fall 2003 delivery before shutting down the consumer division. Currently, Last Chance sells to approximately 100 retailers, representing about 250 doors.
"The story I always heard was 'we love your stuff' and they were buying it for themselves and their employees, but because our brand was not as well known as other brands, retailers were reluctant to carry us because they felt they had to stock their stores with recognized brand names," said Hillegas.
Until recently, Japanese business was keeping Last Chance in the black, generating as much as 80 percent of the company's business. However, when the Japanese economy went south, the business dried up, and so did much-needed revenues. Last Chance was left to rely on struggling domestic sales.
As a result, Last Chance was never able to generate sufficient revenue to justify the costs. However, because of the company's reputation for quality, it had also -- fortuitously it now appears -- begun developing a business with companies seeking to outsource production. Leveraging connections with Brazil and production facilities there, Last Chance has a second chance with a side of the business that is performing very, very well.
"Sales on the private label and corporate side have quickly eclipsed the consumer side, so all we're really doing is shifting our focus to the company's profit centers," said Hillegas.
"We'll still be at Outdoor Retailer, walking the floors," said Hillegas. "We made a lot of friends there and we're going to miss the energy."
For companies interested in private label or company apparel sales, Hillegas may be reached at 800-822-9643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SNEWS View: Say goodbye to the Last Chance Saloon and free root beer at the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. Worse, say goodbye to a great brand with quality product. Last Chance's challenge is not uncommon, and the company's decision to stop selling at retail is a symptom of a greater problem -- risk averse retailers who are not confident enough in their own brand (the store) to take chances promoting products they believe in with, granted, little or no real consumer brand recognition. Until retailers figure out that it is their own brand, their store name, their image, that is more important than any name brand they carry in their store, we'll be reading more stories like Last Chance and fewer stories about entrepreneurs developing cutting edge product that used to be the foundation of the specialty business.