This piece originally appeared in the September print edition of Ragtrader, subscribe to the magazine here.
Since joining Politix last year, MD Peter Mitchley-Hughes and his team have been driving change. Assia Benmedjdoub reports.
What are some of the changes you’ve executed to Politix since joining?
I’ve really focused on making sure our end-to-end supply chain is fit for purpose. I am driving the team very hard towards a dynamic fashion model for men.
We’ve worked hard to create an efficient supply chain which goes from design to stores in less than 90 days, and our repeats will happen in 40-50 days. We are constantly challenging the way we work to become a very dynamic fashion model.
What was the supply chain model prior to this change?
It was a similar concept, but focused more on launching two big seasons.
We’ve shifted it to be a lot more responsive to how our customer likes to shop, with lots of newness all the time.
The other main area of change has been to bolster the leadership team. I’ve introduced some fresh thinking to combine with amazing leaders who have been in the business for a long time, staying with the business for 10, 15, 20 years, which is incredible because they’ve got all that heritage of Politix and really understand what our customer wants.
I feel we are definitely maturing, and certainly growing via initiatives like starting a partnership with the Movember Foundation last year. It’s really important for me personally and for us as a business to give back to the Australian community.
So, we’ve chosen to raise funds for their multiple good causes and it has been really exciting so far. The business and therefore the brand is evolving and maturing, and extending into how we source our products with a heavy focus on how we can do this responsibly.
What are some of the milestones there?
This year we’ve worked closely with industry partners such as LWG (Leather Working Group) and I’m delighted that in this current range, all of our t-shirts, polos and jerseys feature ethically sourced cotton.
By the end of the year, all of our shirts, all of our chinos, all cotton will be ethically sourced and all our leather goods will be LWG.
My ambition and goal (by this time next year), is that every single piece of apparel we sell will have a sustainable component within it. It’s an essential part of our business to think about how we impact the environment and our communities throughout the entire supply chain.
This year we’ve replaced our plastic bags to prevent 250,000 plastic bags going to landfill every year. We now have beautiful, fully recyclable bags – even the handles, which amazingly feel like a ribbon but are actually made of paper.
It’s this sort of innovation technology we are embracing to help the environment in which we live.
Maturing and shifting the way we do business has been and will continue to be an extremely important agenda for me. Similar to the changes with sustainability, we are continually evolving our product.
We’ve established a very strong formal-wear business but during this last couple of years, we’ve also developed a very strong casual-wear business, which is probably less-known.
What percentage of the range is suiting?
Suiting is actually only about 30% of our business. We do have a bias towards formal styles and that is right for our customer, but casual is growing and really establishing itself as a big part of our business. It reflects how we see men’s fashion developing.
Most people don’t go to the office or to events in a suit and tie anymore, it’s now a mix of different styles and definitely becoming more fashion forward.
You only have to look at this year’s Golden Globes or Oscars red carpets to know that menswear is becoming bolder and more detail oriented.
After the Globes, Robin Givhan wrote in The Washington Post that, “the men on the red carpet are just as interesting as the women … [Men’s] flamboyant side has been out and strutting for quite some time. It’s that the women’s clothes overall just aren’t quite as exciting anymore.”
I think what’s exciting for our business is our ability to mix and match styles with a confident attitude. Our design team is based in Melbourne, ensuring all our product is designed in-house and all of our fabric is individually selected so it’s totally unique.
The team relentlessly focuses on original design, size fit and attention to detail.
Our unique product design combined with extremely good, high-touch customer service in-stores is why we’re continuing to grow.
You mentioned new appointments to the team, can you tell me some of those people that have come on board?
Two of our recent appointments are Richard Dalke as head of marketing and Paul Burden as head of creative and design.
We’ve also brought some extra skills into merchandise planning with Jeremy Singh, but the core leadership team that was in Politix is still there, particularly Paula McMahan and Debbie Knights.
In terms of eCommerce have there been any major changes in that space?
My passion and background is actually digital and at the moment, we are making sure our solution is fit for purpose and appropriate for our customers’ needs. The strength of Politix is definitely in that last-minute purchase.
A guy saying, “oh my goodness, I’ve got a wedding to go to tomorrow, I need something to wear!” – there’s not as much forethought and planning, so that’s where the heart of our business will remain.
We are still investing in online to underpin our core business model, and we’ve spent the last year shoring up our technology and processes. It’s now about driving volume through it.
Do you mean like re-platforming?
No, we haven’t had to. We’re actually really lucky as we have a great platform already.
It’s more about connecting the dots behind the scenes, and improving the way we communicate to customers.
In terms of retail stores, have you extended the retail network since your appointment?
Yes, we have.
As you know, last year we announced that we are exiting Myer by September 2019.
In the meantime, we’ve had a huge expansion into David Jones. You will also start to gradually see stand-alone stores open.
We’ve carefully thought about where we want to be, what locations we want and how we want to position ourselves in each of the malls around the country. We’ve got a very clear roadmap.
How do you see Politix this time next year?
We are not fundamentally changing the way we are going to market. It is a formula that already works.
With changes in technology and data it can be overwhelming, but we stand by having great product and exceptional service at the core of our business.
We are confident there is further opportunity to grow our share of market. We have a great opportunity to start talking about the brand a bit more and make people more aware about the range of products we have.