LORNA JANE FIGHTING-FIT FOR US EXPANSION

LORNA JANE FIGHTING-FIT FOR US EXPANSION

ENTREPRENEUR Lorna Jane Clarkson (pictured) has bullish growth plans for 2012. She will open her first US store in the Californian city of Malibu during March and a further two in Santa Monica and Marina del Rey by June.

Clarkson is not fazed by North America’s economic woes and believes there is no better time to enter the US market.

“We have visited the US two to three times each year and found California has an active and outdoor way of life similar to that in Australia,” she says.

“We have wanted to expand to the US for the past five years, so we asked the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and University of Queensland to do a one-year case study into how we should do it. The results reinforced what we had already thought: We should do it.”

The 47-year-old will continue to drive her company forward, underpinned by organic growth and has no plans to go public yet.

“Lorna Jane is a private company and any expansion in the US is self-funded. Floating on the ASX is not on the agenda for the company,” she says.

Clarkson keeps a tight grip on her brand, saying that it provides customers with the best possible quality and price. She even got in front of the camera and did her own modelling in two promotional campaigns during April and November 2011. Ask her about China and she is refreshingly candid.

“All our design and marketing work is done locally and there are a total of more than 1000 employees. I used to have my own factory in Fortitude Valley but now manufacture in China. We have had our fair share of goods not being up to standard and could not sell them, but 99 per cent of the time they get it right,” she says.

Lorna Jane has transcended its fashion brand status to become a female-empowering lifestyle product based on a philosophy of moving the body, nourishing from inside out and believing in the positive.

Clarkson’s customers are attracted to the prospect of leading a healthier and more active lifestyle. They range from 5-year-old primary school students to 70-year-old pensioners, including Clarkson’s mother.

“We have an angel service for customers who cannot find their size in a product they want. They call our 1300 number and our angels search through all stores and deliver it straight to their homes,” says Clarkson.

“We have a swap shop where you can bring any old, machine-washed branded active wear and receive $5 credit per piece to spend on Lorna Jane goods. The old garments are donated to the Salvation Army. We also run free Pilates and yoga classes.”

Fashion and lifestyle runaway Lorna Jane has plans to expand to the UK and Asia. Read the entire story by getting your own copy of the February issue of Brisbane Business News - out now at a newsagent near you.

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