When Garry Hurvitz began selling his silk-screened T-shirts at a local city fair 30 years ago, he may not have guessed that he had taken the first step in forming a worldwide garment manufacturing organization whose apparel has popped up everywhere from athletic stadiums to the shoulders of former President George W. Bush.
But that is precisely what happened. Hurvitz’s humble venture became Ash City Worldwide, a producer of more than 400 styles of clothing such as golf shirts, woven shirts, fleece, outerwear – including down and leather – performance, workwear garments and accessories. The Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada-based company expanded into a global operation a decade ago, with facilities in the United States, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Foreign operations represent 20 percent of its employee base, it says.
“We sell through a middleman to major corporations throughout the continent, as well as governments on the city, state, provincial and federal level,” Hurvitz notes. “Additionally, our merchandise can be found at the retail level in pro-shops and college bookstores across Canada and the [United States]. Everybody in North America will have a product of ours in some capacity.”
Ash City’s products range from less than $10 to more than $100, and are all good quality, Hurvitz notes. “We’ve been able to consistently maintain a high level of quality very well over the years,” he asserts. In addition, Ash City’s breadth and depth of inventory have earned it high marks with customers. It keeps so much product in stock that, 99 percent of the time, it can fill and ship customers’ orders that day, Hurvitz says.
“We put a lot of inventory in our warehouses, and that really provides customers with a level of confidence knowing their order will be processed and out the door promptly,” he explains.
Ash City’s garments are so popular partly because its clothing lines are so diverse, Hurvitz says. “The product selection we have has a lot of variety,” he notes. Ash City products are broken down into five distinct brands:
- Extreme, which is known for affordability and is Ash City’s core product;
- North End Sport, a performance gear line “designed with fashion and function in mind;”
- North End, an outerwear line;
- Ash City, a line of domestically produced apparel; and
- Il Migliore, “an elegant line of upscale corporate casual apparel,” the company says.
In addition, Ash City has an eco-friendly collection, which features fabrics made from sources like bamboo, soybean, organic fibers and even recycled pop bottles that are broken down and produced into yarns.
“I don’t think there is anybody in the marketplace today that has as broad of an eco-friendly collection as we do,” Hurvitz notes. “It appeals to the customers in our business who really want to show they’re taking an interest in preserving our natural resources and helping to protect the environment.”
Customers are often surprised that Ash City’s “e.c.o” collection, which stands for ecological clothing options and currently features 52 styles, looks and feels like normal apparel, even though it is constructed from unconventional materials, Hurvitz notes. They are also surprised, he says, to learn that the line is so modestly priced. “Usually, people tend to interpret green as expensive,” Hurvitz notes.
“People are pleasantly surprised by the fact that they can get product from us that is derived from recycled, renewable and organic sources at the same price as products in our other lines.” He adds that the e.c.o product category is one that is here to stay, and the collection will continue to expand with each new season, with the intention of evolving into a significant percentage of Ash City’s total merchandise offering.
In addition to Ash City Worldwide’s 272,000 square-foot Richmond Hill head office and distribution center, Ash City USA operates a 150,000-square-foot distribution facility in Lenexa, Kan. The company also has operations in Malaysia, Bangladesh and southeast Asia. Hurvitz explains the majority of its product is manufactured in these regions. He notes the company’s overseas operations are subject to the same rigorous quality control standards that the domestic products are held to.
It takes Ash City about one year to develop a new product and four to six months to resource an existing style. Hurvitz says he sees those numbers shrinking in the near future. “We’re trying to take that lead time and compress it into a much shorter period of time, from the time we spend developing something to the time it’s delivered in the warehouse,” he explains. “It’s important to be economical and bring our new products to market sooner.”
Ash City does not limit its value proposition to product pricing and quality alone; it extends it into the services provided after product selection has been made, it says. “With over more than heads of embroidery, we can be our customers’ one-stop shop destination, saving them the time and frustration of having to deal with multiple suppliers, purchase orders and freight charges,” Hurvitz says. Decorating options in heat seal are also available for those preferring an alternate technique of branding.
Value in Marketing
The company also offers marketing services on its Web site for customers. “The value offering doesn’t end [with after-purchase services],” Hurvitz notes. “Just look to [our] recently renovated Web site. Ash City believes in empowering [our] customers by helping them with their marketing efforts.”
The Web site features several free marketing tools to fill this purpose. For example, it provides step-by-step guidance for customers to create their own apparel Web sites, import and place virtual logos on Ash City products, and create their own flyers and custom videos.
“We coproduce a lot of free marketing tools on our Web site,” Hurvitz notes. “It is a very robust e-commerce site that is very successful for us.”
Ash City provides the following marketing services on its Web site:
- Interactive e-Catalog – Ash City’s catalog of more than 400 styles is available online for clients’ own purposes;
- Virtual sample creator – “Making a virtually decorated garment has never been easier [than] with our online virtual sample creator,” the company says;
- Custom movie maker – This enables companies to choose from six of Ash City’s product focused videos, add their own logo and send a link to their clients;
- Flyer creation – Ash City’s in-house design team can create a customized flier for clients;
- Custom Web sites – Ash City offers a free Web site service; and
- Print ads – Ash City will create free print ads for customers.
Ash City will continue to find ways to make business easier for clients, which means creating more marketing innovations for them, Hurvitz says. “Our customers have a difficult job; they have a lot of people they service, and they want to take the risk and effort out of what they’re doing,” he notes. “We’re giving everyone the best possible product we can. A lot of work goes into the design and quality of every style we produce.”