How TBM Solution helps Spatzwear reach customers at scale
With 35 products, selling to 57 countries, this cycling apparel brand needed a hassle-free way of fulfilling its D2C and retail orders
Tom Barras describes himself as a problem solver. These days, he’s the founder of Spatzwear, a premium cycling apparel brand which owes its origins to Tom’s background as an elite professional cyclist and his degree in industrial design.
Spatzwear’s very first product started life as an idea Tom had for an overshoe which stops rain spray from the bike’s front wheel hitting the rider’s legs and feet, making their feet cold and wet, affecting performance.
“I’ve used a lot of top kit and in race situations I sometimes felt let down by a particular product or material that could have been done better,” he remembers. The overshoe idea first struck as far back as 2006, and over the years, Tom experimented with various composites and materials. After settling on a final design, Spatzwear was launched in January 2017.
Here’s how Tom explains the ethos for the company. “A lot of apparel is built to a cost or a price. We don’t let that restrain our design. We have a slogan: everything is designed from necessity. If we can design something that’s a vast improvement over what’s available, we’ll do it. We aim for the kit to perform for the best riders in the harshest conditions and we want to be able to supply that to every level of cyclist – whether that’s someone commuting into work or doing 50 to 100 miles with friends at weekend, or for the racing crowd.”
The overshoe is still Spatzwear’s hero product, but having started with the feet, the company now makes leg warmers, cycle shorts, leg warmers, base layers, jerseys, rain gilets, and gloves. A head protector is due for launch soon.
Spatzwear’s story will be familiar to anyone who’s started an eCommerce business. A converted garage in Leeds became a mini warehouse, with racks on all four walls piled high to the ceiling with stock. In the early days, Tom and his business partner, the double gold-winning Olympic triathlete Alistair Brownlee, took all the orders on a pair of laptops while fulfilling all customer orders.
As well as selling online, Spatzwear also supplies retail bike shops. “From the very start, it was important that we had a presence in bricks and mortar stores. As lifelong cyclists, we not only want to support local bike shops, we also appreciate how people want to touch and feel the kit in that environment,” says Tom.
With a growing product list and expanding customer base, by 2019 the business was ready to start selling in Europe, the USA and Australasia. They worked with a 3PL fulfillment centre near their homes in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. But they soon realised that an EU-based fulfillment partner would help them to scale more easily without Brexit-related logistical challenges.
After an introduction by his other business partner Ivan, Tom got talking to TBM Solution and made his decision after a short test run. “We’ve gone with the best because we don’t have time to mess about. We want to be able to ship to customers globally with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of international barriers. Wherever you are in the world as a Spatzwear customer, we’re set up to respond like a local company. From the start, TBM Solution adapted to that,” says Tom.
TBM assigned an account manager, allowing for quick personal communication, while it was easy for Spatzwear to integrate with TBM’s IT systems. “We can see what inventory we have, and where, at the click of a button,” says Tom. “It’s good that a lot of the communication is automated but there’s always someone there that you can email, text or pick phone up should you need – and sometimes that’s the best way.”
TBM also provides freight services to organise getting the goods from where they’re manufactured, to the international shipping hubs in Dublin, Dewsbury and Chicago via sea, air or express courier delivery.
Online orders make up 40% of Spatzwear’s total business, with 60% of sales going to retail bike shops. TBM fulfils both types of orders, shipping direct to customers as well as supplying Spatzwear’s international distribution network with pallets or cartons of goods. In an average month, TBM ships 1,000 Spatzwear products to 57 countries around the globe.
Without needing to manage the logistics of supplying 35 different products, Spatzwear can keep its operations as lean and economical as possible, without compromising on the vision for the business.
Tom says: “We tend to outsource, so we can function like a much bigger company. The people we outsource to need to be as driven and as motivated as us, and that’s how we’ve found TBM Solution to be. They’ve worked hard to make their services fit our business. That’s taken the stress away, so I can focus on the direction of the company.”