Regatta’s man in Ireland sets his sights on a fleet of shops

New Traders: Brian Fox races to open 20 Irish outlets since joining UK firm in 2000

Brian Fox of Regatta Great Outdoors Ireland, at the retailer’s Limerick outlet in the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre. Photograph: Sean Curtin/Fusionshooters

Brian Fox of Regatta Great Outdoors Ireland, at the retailer’s Limerick outlet in the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre. Photograph: Sean Curtin/Fusionshooters

 

Brian Fox is a busy man and wouldn’t have it any other way. The past three years, since setting up Regatta Great Outdoors Ireland, have been a period of activity that, in just another year, will see 20 stores and 180 employees on the books.

Fox has always lived life on the hoof and been involved, active and busy. And he has always had an interest in the sports business; he started his working life selling different brands and, in 1989, setting up a water ski centre in his home city of Cork. This “became a nice little distribution and selling business, so that I was making a couple of quid while doing my sport”.

Today, 28 years later, Fox is a “major player”.

The beginning of the great leap forward began in 2000 when he was head-hunted by the UK company Regatta. He joined “as a sales representative, using my garage on the Model Farm Road as a showroom with display models hung about the walls. It was a good business for me to be in, selling to people who already knew me. I started on a high 17 years ago and haven’t looked back.”

In 2003 Fox noticed that “the big brands – Nike, Adidas – were selling directly to the consumer in their own high street shops. I’ve always wanted this to be a multimillion-euro business. So in order to scale up I needed another route to the market.”

In 2004 he opened a first concession outlet with Shaws in Wexford: “Over the next four years I opened eight concessions with Shaws in different towns and cities.”

The first shop

The next big step, taken to “complement the wholesale business”, was to open his own shop. And so it came to pass, in 2011, that Fox opened in Limerick’s Crescent Shopping Centre. Things really began to take off, leading to the setting up of Regatta Great Outdoors Ireland Ltd.

“There are,” he explains, “three business models within the overall company. Firstly, it’s a wholesale business, selling to the likes of Blarney Woollen Mills and 63 Degrees. Secondly it has concession outlets in the likes of Shaws and Paco. The third model involves the standalone retail outlets and Regatta Great Outdoors Ireland.”

Explaining the Regatta business model further, Fox says he is responsible for “a multichannel business making its way on to the market via three brands”. Dare 2B and Craghoppers are the other two, but his “special baby” sells mid-market value fleeces, jackets, camping gear, boots, rucksacks etc.

Dare 2B is edgier, selling higher-priced skiing gear, as well as running, cycling and active urban gear. He describes Craghopper, the most expensive, as “more technical – our traveller and adventure brand. It sells to those walking the Camino, is Nosi-Life treated so as to protect from mosquito bites, has high UV protection and is quick-drying for people in hot, dry climates.

“We use manufacturing facilities in the Far East,” he adds. “The goods all arrive into a 1,000sq ft warehouse in Liverpool and I have containers coming into Ireland every night of the week.”

Third-biggest business

As a group, Regatta UK trades in 64 countries. “Ireland,” Fox says, “is its third-biggest business, after the UK and Germany/Austria. I have a bigger per-capita take than any other country in the world in outdoor clothing.”

There are currently 11 standalone Regatta Great Outdoor Ireland retail outlets, which employ 68 people between them. Fox has clear targets: “Five more of these are due to open before the first week in September, and within the next 12 months there will be a total of 20 stores employing 180 people, all selling the three brands.”

His modus operandi is simple. “Before taking on a new site [for Regatta], I meet with other retailers in the area. Always.”

The most recent outlet was in Coolock’s Northside Shopping Centre. The next, in mid-July, will be in Galway’s Eyre Square Shopping Centre. After that will come Gorey in Wexford, Waterford city, Dún Laoghaire’s George’s Street, the Ilac Centre in Dublin and, finally, an outlet back home in Cork city.

Fox’s family has been hugely supportive through the business-building years. Daughter Aimee has a PhD in economics, son Gary is in the Navy, “currently on a humanitarian mission with the LE Éithne in the Mediterannean” . Siobhán, his “amazing, long-suffering” wife, is a dental nurse. He couldn’t, he is adamant, “have done it without them”.