Case Study: Pearl Izumi USA Invests in IT to Revive Custom Clothing Business
Problem: Pearl Izumi USA, a cross-channel retailer of sports apparel, wanted to bring back its custom clothing business, which had been shuttered nearly eight years ago because it wasn't hitting profit targets.
Solution: Contracted with an online electronic signature service to help simplify its cumbersome sales process.
Results: Pearl Izumi USA has relaunched its custom clothing business online.
Since its inception over 50 years ago, Pearl Izumi USA has evolved into the world's foremost line of technical-performing and quality manufactured sports apparel. The name Pearl Izumi USA is derived from the gem "pearl" and an area of Japan known for its clear water "Izumi." Literally translated, the name means "fountain of pearls." Based in Louisville, Colo., the line has been distributed in the United States since 1981.
Nearly eight years ago, Pearl Izumi shut down its custom clothing business because it wasn't hitting profit targets. Today, new services available online are making it possible for the company to revive a proven revenue-generating business — only this time with the expectation that the profit margins are in line with corporate strategy. Mike Regan, business manager for personalized gear at Pearl Izumi, says before getting axed in 2001, the custom clothing unit generated $12 million to $15 million annually. But the overhead in labor and technology for the necessary sales processes was "too cumbersome," he says.
The business cried out for automation to get a handle on the complexity, Regan recalls. But it wouldn't have been possible without a huge IT investment at the time. According to Regan, to make the high-end customization business unit a success, it needs online services that are "highly knucklehead-resistant." He describes his market as comprised of users, largely bike shop owners, lacking deep computer technical skills and short on patience. "I wanted the lowest common denominator for customers," he says.