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Export Award For Orca – A Top Performing Brand

Export Award For Orca – A Top Performing Brand

Auckland, April 1, 2003 -- Drawing its inspiration from the killer whale, Auckland company Orca has become a world leading specialist in triathlon wetsuits, creating a multi-million dollar business and winning a Trade New Zealand Export Award for its achievements.

(Note to Editors: Media are invited to attend the presentation of the Trade New Zealand Export Award to Orca by the Mayor of Auckland, the Hon. John Banks QSO, on Tuesday 1 April, at 7.30pm, at the Porsche Showroom, 40 Great South Road, Newmarket, Auckland).

Director and founder Scott Unsworth says Orca, which also produces sports and casual apparel, holds a strong position at the high end of the global triathlon market, with its garments worn by top international athletes. Eight teams in the 2002 Commonwealth Games chose to wear Orca, with athletes from up to 12 countries likely to be wearing the brand at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Mr Unsworth says the ethos of the Orca brand is performance lead by design, with products engineered with the underlying objective of enhancing an athlete’s performance.

“Orca's wetsuits are race-proven. Extensive tests against competing brands have shown our wetsuits are the fastest in the world. Our leadership in this category has laid the foundation for expansion into other sports apparel markets, and more recently a casual apparel range.”

With annual exports now “up towards $10 million”, sales to 23 countries and a growing product range, Orca has come a long way from the business that started in 1993 with Mr Unsworth selling wetsuits out of the boot of his car.

An ex-triathlete who specialised in swimming, Mr Unsworth had been forced out of competition by injury. He became a swimming coach and started designing and producing wetsuits to help improve his teams’ performance.

Word soon got out about the new high performance wetsuits, and almost immediately competitors from around the world starting faxing him orders. Mr Unsworth says that in 1995 he decided to get serious about the business, developing and marketing the Orca brand internationally. His first overseas trip was to a tropical island off the coast of Mexico where he sold the wetsuits to competitors in the World Triathlon Champs.

He says over half the world’s leading athletes now wear Orca, with the company sponsoring several top competitors, including New Zealand triathletes Hamish Carter and Joanne Lawn and World Triathlon Champion, Ivan Rana of Spain.

“Those are the people that build the Orca brand. The product really sells itself to the extent that we have people chasing us wanting to distribute our products.”

To retain its leading edge, research and product development are ongoing. Mr Unsworth is adamant all products must remain authentic to the Orca brand in terms of look, quality and garment performance. For the first few years clothing was only in black, whites and greys, and this year the company will gradually expand the colour palette, but Mr Unsworth says the minimalist and distinctive look Orca is known for will remain.

He says the strength of the Orca brand and the performance of its products gives the company its competitive advantage.

“We are an exclusive brand, specialising in higher end leading edge sports garments using very technically advanced fabric, designs and patterns. Some of our products are custom made.”

Orca sources its fabrics from the around the world, using leading manufacturers in New Zealand, Italy, China and Spain to produce the products.

Trade New Zealand’s Sector Team Manager Design & Lifestyle Products Carole Wright congratulated Orca on its Export Award, saying the company has a very strong vision of growth based on a strategy of brand enhancement.

“Orca understands the power of the brand, its value and what the brand represents and it is implementing a long term growth strategy around this. The company is also committed to remaining at the leading edge of its niche market with research and development and the creation of new products integral to its competitive advantage.”

Now employing 18 people in Orca’s Newmarket premises, Scott Unsworth says exports have grown steadily every year since he started the business 10 years ago, with exciting potential for future growth. “To me we are still a long way off what we can be as a brand. Orca can be an international sports brand, recognised as a household name – that’s always been my goal. I believe we have the potential to turn Orca into a $1 billion company in the next 10-20 years.

“We are a pretty full on company, but we are patient about growing the business carefully. We don’t want our product to be flavour of the month. We are very strategic, doing one bit at a time and doing it really well.”

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