Sam Moore, a Gold Coast entrepreneur with 15 years’ design experience in the apparel industry, could not have known what was ahead when a private equity group acquired streetwear brand Culture Kings for $600 million in 2021.
Moore was building on his latest venture, PYRA, a technical apparel brand for the outdoors which had the backing of Culture Kings’ co-founder Simon Beard.
Beard funded PYRA as an independent investment for three years, which Moore says allowed his company to grow rapidly.
But after American private equity group Aka Capital secured the deal for Culture Kings, Aka felt it was time to exit the investment in PYRA, leaving Moore to take back control of the company he founded in 2020.
Now backed by private investors, the legacy of growth continues for PYRA with Moore revealing to Business News Australia that his company has notched up $8 million in sales over the past three years with annual growth tracking at 150 per cent.
Moore’s ambitions are to grow annual turnover to $100 million through a strategy that includes international expansion and a network of branded stores. PYRA is already sold across 50 retail outlets, including David Jones, Culture Kings and a host of independent retailers.
“When I established PYRA, I really wanted to start a brand to inspire people to get into the outdoors, and that’s our mission - to inspire movement in the elements,” says Moore, who was a finalist in the recent 2023 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards.
“I originally grew up in New Zealand where I was a semi-professional freestyle snow skier. My lifestyle back then involved spending a lot of time skiing in winter and surfing or wakeboarding in summer, so I have always been an active person.”
Moore’s penchant for an active lifestyle, and his talents for apparel design, led him to establish his first venture, Dead Brands, in 2011 just a few years after moving to Australia.
The one-time head designer for General Pants eventually sold Dead Brands to Culture Kings in 2018, which Moore concedes was more out of necessity after encountering production problems out of China.
It was a serendipitous sale with Beard taking a shine to Moore’s knack for brand development. The sale of Dead Brands also afforded Moore a year to scope out a new challenge, which is when he firmed up plans to launch PYRA.
“For me my journey wasn’t over when I sold Dead Studios,” Moore says.
“When I was conceptualising PYRA, I felt there was a great opportunity in the market for a technical apparel brand for the outdoors.
“So, I took my experience as a streetwear designer and looked at plugging the gap between what the old legacy brands, such as Patagonia and The North Face, have been doing and putting a younger edge on it.
“PYRA is a true lifestyle brand that bridges the gap between streetwear and outdoor wear. Our demographic is 18 to 30-year-olds, so we’re positioned to disrupt the old-school brands that don’t relate.
“I have always wanted to build PYRA into a global brand from the start and I have ambitions to grow the brand to $100 million in revenue internationally.”
In a sign that major retailers are beginning to notice the brand, David Jones has been stocking PYRA since October last year after the department store retailer tapped Moore on the shoulder looking for a distribution deal.
David Jones currently stocks PYRA in 15 of its stores with Moore revealing the brand has also expanded into 15 independent stores in recent months.
About half of PYRA’s turnover is generated from direct-to-market online sales which Moore says is likely to be the norm for the company as it continues to grow.
While New Zealand is PYRA’s second-biggest market, the brand is also gaining traction in the US which accounts for about 10 per cent of sales.
“The US will be a major focus in the next year or so and we’re in conversations with sales agencies in the UK and Japan as well,” Moore says.
However, the next step for the company is to establish its own branded store network in Australia, starting with Moore’s home turf on the Gold Coast.
“The plan is to open our first store on the Gold Coast while a pop-up store is planned for Sydney in December with the aim of opening a permanent store in Sydney and Melbourne next year.
“Having our own branded stores has always been part of my strategy for PYRA. Because we’re a technical apparel brand, it’s always key that people can feel and touch the product and we can really tell our brand’s story.
“Of course, our retail partners can also do that, but no one can tell the full story better than us in our own retail landscape.”
Building a community
PYRA has been gaining traction through a number of initiatives that are designed to ‘build a community around the brand’.
“We do the Pyra Hiking Club on the Gold Coast monthly, where we get 20 to 50 people turning up to these local hikes,” Moore says.
“It’s a great way to build relationships with our customers and also show that we are a technical apparel brand by being authentic and taking it to the outdoors where it’s supposed to be.”
The PYRA Ambassador program is also an active engagement initiative that comprises a team of about 100 ‘ambassadors’ who regularly receive products for reviews and feedback.
“We also have a group of athletes among them who test all our products in New Zealand,” Moore says.
“This program is super key for us because we can have a direct relationship with people out there doing it, testing our product to the limit and giving us real-time feedback to assist us with product development.
“All of these ambassadors have their own networks as well, which is important for expanding brand awareness.”
The company’s brand pillars comprise street lifestyle, outdoor sports, ski wear and sports eyewear, PYRA’s biggest mover is outdoor wear, with 5,000 puffer jackets sold last season.
“That’s a really big category for us in winter as well as our waterproof shell jackets, but our bread and butter is our t-shirts, hoodies and headwear.”
PYRA has also produced a range of golf wear with the sport surprisingly popular among the company’s age demographic who are looking ‘swing away from those old school brands’.
“Product is our number one priority,” Moore says.
“We spend a ton of time in research and development, perfecting the fabric and the fit of our product. We are not the cheapest on the market and there’s a reason for that.
“We have an amazing return customer rate as well. My philosophy is to not follow trends and to design for the future.”
This philosophy is also the foundation of PYRA’s approach to sustainability.
“About 50 per cent of our range is made from sustainable materials, including materials made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s hard for anyone in the industry to be 100 per cent sustainable, but if we can improve on what we have been doing in the past, it’s a step in right direction.”
Moore is also unfazed by signs of a downturn in consumer spending potentially impacting PYRA’s growth plans.
“Our demographic doesn’t tend to have a big mortgage or any mortgage at all. A lot of their income is disposable and that’s why we want to pursue this market.
“These are buyers who are jumping on trend. If they are buying for quality, they are happy to pay for it and that’s a big difference for us.”
With ambitious growth plans ahead, Moore hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a future capital raising but he is taking a relatively cautious approach to expansion.
“If we want to keep growing at this rate, I imagine we will need to raise more capital at some time, but I am also not interested in creating a business that is not running profitably.”
It’s one of the reasons PYRA has not gone down the discounting path with its products.
“I am so protective of PYRA as a brand,” Moore says. “I want to see PYRA become a successful brand that will still be here in 10 years. We are currently running at a profit; we have been from day dot, and I want to keep it that way.”
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