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Bahamian fashion company goes global

"The official clothing brand of The Bahamas," 242 People Clothing Co, is looking to expand its apparel line, and branch out internationally, according to young CEO Ranard Eric Henfield. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010

As many fashion retailers downsize or close up shop due to sluggish sales over recent months, 242 People Clothing Co chose this time to launch a new clothing line, and it is paying dividends. The company, which bills itself as “the official clothing brand of The Bahamas,” is seeing a year-on-year increase in sales, remarkable considering it is operating from a country where the vast majority of garments purchased are US-based brands. Even more surprising, the two-year-old clothing company has been turning a profit.

“To be honest, we thought this would be a line that would take two years to catch on, but within the first month we had orders coming in locally, regionally and internationally,” says 242 People chief executive officer Ranard Eric Henfield.

Henfield, a partner in the law firm Lincoln Bethel & Co, had previously owned a clothing store selling international brands such as Ed Hardy, True Religion and Akademiks. Witnessing a growing consumer interest in buying Bahamian wear, in November 2008, he decided to launch a local clothing line.

A month later, Henfield teamed up with partners attorney Jason Hepburn, business consultant Larouche Morley and commercial banker Cameron Smith. The business was initially capitalized with $40,000 with each partner investing $10,000 to get the 242 People brand up and running.

Local flavour
The partners began designing tee-shirts in January 2009 using catchy Bahamian phrases, national symbols such as the flamingo and blue marlin, and the colours of the Bahamian flag.

In April, they tested the market for their six, original designs via social networking website Facebook. “The initial plan was to produce 1,000 shirts to see if the stuff would sell,” recalls Henfield. “I was the partner who believed that Internet response didn’t necessarily translate into sales.”

But just weeks prior to the new line’s release, The Sports Center–a popular local sporting goods and clothing store–contacted 242 People concerning a number of customer inquiries about the new clothing line. The store wanted to order 1,000 items in advance. The outlet’s early commitment prompted the clothing company to triple production, to 3,000 pieces. Notices were sent out via Facebook and the company’s website to gauge the interest of other potential wholesalers worldwide. “We had wholesale orders coming from Toronto, Miami, London, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica,” says Henfield.

Since the launch of its first tee-shirt line in June 2009, 242 People has branched out to manufacturing and distributing thermals, hooded tops, polo shirts and gym pants. The company releases a new line every three to four months, selling an average of 3,000 pieces each time.

“Our plan is to eventually get to the point where our clothes are sold in stores all around the world,” says Henfield.

One of the country's leading lawyers has called for renewed vigor in promoting The Bahamas as a place for investment, saying: "We need to look at our physical assets. That is one thing we do not market enough."

The College of The Bahamas’ School of Business has joined with the Inter American Investment Corp (IIC) to carry out a diagnostic methodology for SMEs known as FINPYME.

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