Saturday, 8 August 2015

Spotlight on Legwear Safari, Part 1

Legwear Safari is South Africa's leading online hosiery retailer, and stock a wide range of legwear brands.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak to Tracy Kruger of Legwear Safari and are now pleased to published the first part of our interview with her.

In Part 1, Tracy speaks about how she started Legwear Safari and how the business now has a large amount of male customers.

Can you tell Hosiery For Men readers about Legwear Safari Why did you start the business and how has it developed?
The South African consumer has a strong hosiery market, which has been dominated for decades by one local manufacturer. In terms of availability, there isn’t much to choose from. Plain black, navy and a few shades of sheer. But nothing exciting is easily available and there is a high demand for quality and design.

As an offbeat creative, I was crying out for something more riveting than black tights and started shopping overseas. My hosiery world immediately expanded into a range of choice of colours, designs, textiles, different yarn densities and finally something that suited my personality and my body shape. Far removed from anything I had ever seen here.

I had just opened my first online store in South Africa, Jar of Mielies, selling local handcrafts from South African artists, creatives and entrepreneurs and had just dumped a ton of our savings into getting the business off the ground. The interest from the overseas market was incredible and before long my daily routine was taken up a lot by international shipping, lead times and dealing with couriers and postal services all over the world.

It was just after we opened that my husband suggested that I open another online store, this time bringing goods into the country and selling hosiery. I thought he had lost his mind, where on earth were we going to get the money for a start?

But he was insistent that there were more of “Me” out there who also wanted good quality hosiery with a range of exciting designs and colours that were not the cheap and cheerful kind that one could only purchase at a party shop.

So cautiously, I compromised and suggested we start a Facebook page and start testing the water for the demand.

So three months after Jar of Mielies was born we did exactly that and in a few weeks we were absolutely blown away by the response. It literally blew my expectations out of the water and suddenly we were very frightened and extremely excited all at the same time.

Our customers couldn’t wait for our store to open and we were already servicing orders through our Facebook page while we built our second store.

A year later in 2013 we opened our second store and both stores are going strong and steady! Despite our national Postal Strike, loadshedding and ups and downs with the local economy, it has forced us to get creative when making sure our customers get everything they need.

What are the main brands of tights that you stock? Are these local brands as well as imported ones?
Initially when doing our research, we approached a lot of brands that I had bought from during the years I had built up my own collection of hosiery from overseas. We received an overwhelmingly positive response from all of the international brands who offered support, suggestions and assistance. It was fantastic and we were greatly encouraged by the support.

However, every local supplier we approached was not interested in supplying us. They turned their nose down at us, despite us going to great lengths to meet with them, explaining the concept of an ecommerce retailer, we were turned away, which was greatly disappointing for us.

However, this year, the local Falke manufacturer came on board and it has been a very successful season with them thus far, despite production delays compliments of loadshedding. They have moved themselves into first place as our best seller this winter and we are delighted!

We currently stock Pamela Mann, Trinny & Susannah by Cette, Falke SA, Gerbe, Intimidea, Leggies Amsterdam and Silky Silky.

Do you have male customers who buy tights for themselves? Is this an important part of your customer base?
Our customer base has a large amount of male customers – around the 40% mark, which is fantastic! We welcome and encourage our male customers to engage with us, talk to us and provide us with feedback so we may assist them in making the right purchase.

We have a small percentage of male customers who purchase under the guise of buying for someone else, but a large number are quite open and comfortable with us knowing that they are purchasing for themselves, which is a huge compliment for us.

Although South Africans in general are quite open minded as a culture, there is still a somewhat timid approach, when it comes to men purchasing hosiery to wear for themselves. It is certainly not as common practice as it is in Europe, but as more and more men start feeling comfortable with the idea, so will everyone else.

Our male customers are very important to us; they offer a completely different view point to our female customers and shop in a completely different way to women. Which in turn makes us think differently and completely changes our way of working, planning and sourcing – making it that much more progressive.

When you have the opinions, requirements and engaged feedback from a full consumer perspective – both male and female, you are literally able to tailor make a store designed for and by the consumer.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Tracy.

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