Environmental A-Wear-ness

Ash City Worldwide

Ash City Worldwide manufactures and distributes customizable promotional apparel for casual and corporate markets. Founder Garry Hurvitz – described by the company’s VP of Marketing as a “guru of product and sourcing” – started the company more than thirty-five years ago by selling silk screened shirts at a local fair. The company now employs over five hundred people across the globe.

Promotional apparel is everywhere, though many people probably don’t even realize just how prevalent it is, and Product Line Manager of Ash City Worldwide, Elson Yeung, can understand. “Before I got into this company, I had no idea this industry even existed. It is, in fact, one of those industries where I now realize what huge potential there is here and it’s pretty interesting that, in the recent few years, we have really changed the landscape in this industry.”

Laura Turner, VP of Marketing for the past eighteen months, agrees. “My exposure to apparel was limited so I have learned a great deal here,” she shares. “As far as specialty garments and promotional products go, you knew they existed and were out there as I was an end user, but you don’t understand the size and scope of this industry until you’re in it.”

Indeed, Ash City products are in more places than you could likely imagine. Just think of how many times you might see uniformed staff at hotels, restaurants, airports or retail stores. The company even makes sports team uniforms. Elson says, “A friend and I went golfing and the staff was wearing our garments everywhere.” Laura adds, “I went to buy a car and they were wearing our shirts there as well… everybody and anybody is wearing something with a logo that we have done.”

The company’s products are sold to marketing companies throughout Europe and North America who then sell to companies both large and small. Laura explains that Ash City has worked with some of the biggest companies one could think of. “We can help with logo design and put it on a jacket for small companies, but we also deal with end users like Coca-Cola or Pepsi or major banks that just keep purchasing for their staff throughout the year,” she explains. “If you’re a business owner or corporate purchaser and you want to buy shirts or jackets for your staff, you are not going to purchase directly from Ash City, you’re going to go through one of our distributers who will then facilitate the process. They can then bring the end user into our showroom in Richmond Hill to see the garments first hand or view the garments on our website.

The company’s award winning ecommerce site is the nerve centre of Ash City, with a significant amount of business flowing through it. The rest of the orders go through the head office and are dealt with by, “our very talented customer service team based in Richmond Hill – with support in Lenexa, Kansas as well,” says Laura.

The company does not sell directly to end users, instead showcasing products at tradeshows aimed at its distributors – marketing and advertising companies – who then sell on. “Understanding your customers is most crucial in business,” Elson says. “A friend wanted to order something for an event in Las Vegas and we set everything up through our North American distribution centre in Lenexa, Kansas – sent everything to her at her event in Vegas and it was a hassle free, one-stop shop.”

Ash City carries a wide range of clothing and accessories from a variety of collections. The ‘Extreme®’ line offers performance features such as moisture wicking, antimicrobial and snag protection in polo shirts, active tops and crew neck shirts; the ‘North End®’ line is designed to make the wearer appear professional and ready to work; the ‘North End Sport®’ line, with the latest in sportswear technology and styling, is unrestricted for active wear; ‘North End Sport® Blue’ is intended to combine outdoor performance with city-inspired styling; and finally, the ‘Core365™’ by North End® is an everyday, value-driven collection with an emphasis on function.

With so many ways to acquire garments on and offline these days, a business really has to keep focused on the latest technologies and fashions, so Ash City is constantly refining and updating its lines. The new fall line was just launched on the first of August and the spring line is due to come out in January. Laura is quite excited about the new lines and shares, “The Ash City spring line that comes out in January has the latest in retail-inspired styling. It’s so easy to get really excited about our product here.”

Neither Laura nor Elson started out in fashion; as Elson relates, “At the beginning, I wasn’t really pursuing the design aspect nor did I wish to become a designer.” Initially pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce, he changed educational directions and began pursuing fashion. “I then joined this company and worked my way up from the bottom as a technical coordinator to where I am today and I continue to hope to make a difference.” Laura came from a marketing background in the entertainment industry.

Since the very beginning, Ash City has been giving back to the broader community and continually strives to make a difference by donating time and efforts to worthy causes through various foundations such as the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, the American Breast Cancer Foundation, UNICEF, the Canadian Red Cross, and local sporting teams. Its belief in corporate, social, and environmental responsibility extends to all aspects of the company from health and safety, to the quality of the product, to ethical sourcing of materials, to its extensive green programs.

Laura and Elson emphasize that going green is not just a trend at Ash City. Recognizing that production can have a negative impact on the environment, the company began taking steps to eliminate as much pollution as possible from its processes. Its ecological clothing options, or e.c.o line of clothing, was first introduced in early 2007. Ash City uses organic, sustainable, renewable or recycled fibres in this line made from organic cotton, bamboo fibre, bamboo charcoal nano-particles and recycled polyester from post-consumer products such as plastic PET water bottles. Laura says, “If you look into the recycling of the Ash City garments, we have taken literally millions and millions of pop bottles and turned them into garments. Environmental stewardship is very important to us.”

The greening has even stretched to the design of the company’s new corporate headquarters in Richmond Hill, Ontario. “The building we’re in right now has certain systems that have been put into place, for example reusing rainwater runoff from the roof to irrigate our surrounding landscape.”

To start a successful business, there are a few very important aspects to remember, Laura says. “First and foremost, you have to be more unique than anyone else is. Keep repeating that point of differentiation at every possible turn and every possible communication to get that message across. This is how you will succeed, if you are offering a different service.” And that is just what Ash City has done. The company is the first supplier in its industry to launch a true standalone mobile app, allowing customers to order anything they need whenever they need it. From the design of its products, to its marketing campaigns, to its inventory availability, the company prides itself on the things that set it apart from competitors in the industry.

Elson adds, “It is all about quality and partnership and the way we approach things; we are committed to delivering solutions.” As to the future, he says, “In terms of the company, we continue to grow and that has always been our goal: to keep expanding and be at the forefront of this industry.”

July 17, 2018, 7:19 AM EDT

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