Active Outthere launched in Australia in 2009 and is dedicated to bringing innovative outdoor products to Australia and beyond. Their focus has always been on supplying independent retailers with high quality, original products with a point of difference. The Bugg Report recently had the chance to speak to Brett Varga, the owner of Active Outthere.
The outdoor category has seen huge growth during the current global health emergency. The restricted life that we are all now forced to live with has given rise for people of all ages to find ways to exercise and create recreational activities that can also entertain. Bikes, scooters, skateboards and the like have seen huge interest. Just take a drive around your own neighbourhood and you will see countless number of kids and families getting around on these vehicles. In 2009 Brett Varga, after working with large organisations and learning about the business of bikes, scooters and skateboards, set up his own business and worked hard to assemble great brands that he could bring to market. Brett chose to focus on the specialist/independent route, where he could source, develop and offer innovative and different products, which truly created a value and quality option for the retailer and consumer.
At The Bugg Report we love to put focus on new businesses so we contacted Brett and asked him about his business and how it has evolved over recent years.
Brett, first of all, what inspired you to set up Active Outthere?
It was a long-held dream of mine to own my own business and one day be my own boss. I also love the outdoors and promoting physical activity. I really liked the outdoor wheeled goods category and I knew I was good at developing and sourcing good products, so it made perfect sense to set up a scooter and wheel toy business when I was ready to take the plunge.
You have added and assembled many really cool brands into your portfolio, how do they interact together?
Our brands offer products that cover everything from very young children right through to adults. Globber is a family/lifestyle brand from France. It’s stylish and high quality and is great for scooting in your backyard, scooting to the park or to school or even scooting to the train station to get to work faster. Then we have brands like Grit, Crisp and District which are more at home at the skatepark in the hands of kids and teenagers. Within these brands we cover the beginners right through to hard core stunt scooter riders. Grit has had relationships with world champions. We feel we have the entire scooter market covered with our offering.
I suspect that the new consumer is way more informed than ever before. Do you think they are now looking for quality, innovation and a product that will deliver?
Yes. Consumers expect products that will last and that will handle quite a bit of usage. We love that our Globber scooters for example, are often handed down to younger siblings as the kids outgrow them, because they still have a lot of life left in them. People are becoming more discerning consumers – they would rather buy a quality product that will last, than buy something cheap that will end up in landfill in no time. We make a real effort to carry spare parts for all products to ensure ongoing support of the products we sell. Consumers also expect innovative functional design and the Globber range certainly delivers on this. Year on year the product designs are tweaked to become more comfortable and ergonomic and also more flexible; handle bars that come with several settings to ‘grow’ with your child, or adaptable seat heights that do the same. It’s this sort of clever design that makes Globber one of the most respected brands in the category. Our skate park brands are leading the way in terms of design, graphics and colours. Kids expect to be offered a lot of choice in this regard and we pride ourselves on delivering exciting graphics and colourways on top of solid, hardwearing decks and quality componentry.
Kids expect to be offered a lot of choice in this regard and we pride ourselves on delivering exciting graphics and colourways on top of solid, hardwearing decks and quality componentry.Brett Varga
We notice that you have the Ryan Williams signature scooter range from Nitro Circus in your arsenal, how has this performed for you as a brand?
The Ryan Williams (RW) Nitro Circus is doing well with year on year growth in the independent channel. Ryan is extremely well known by the kids and a good clean athlete to the parents. Sales have been strong across both online and physical stores. The range is supported by toy, sporting and bike and skate retail channels. We’re expecting even further growth for this product next year.
Can you give an insight into your family brands for bikes & trikes etc.?
Globber is our family brand. This is a French brand that we brought to Australia in 2014. Globber has everyone covered. The toddler range includes the Go Up series, the new Explorer Trikes and the Go Bike range. For kids we have the Elite range, the Primo range, the Flow series and our 2 and 3 wheel electric scooters. For teens and adults we’ve got the NL series and the ONE K series. Everything under the Globber brand is really well made and cleverly considered. Being French it’s also a very stylish brand.
Our world is spinning at an alarming rate, do you see the independent retailer coming back into prominence?
I think there will always been a need for independent retailers. People want to support local traders. Brands want to support independent retailers too – they often offer the best trading terms. Online shopping is proving to be a challenge for many retailers, but those that have diversified to take advantage of online selling will be the ones that thrive in the future. Unless your bricks and mortar store is really well located, you’ll need to offer and promote online sales too. Having said that, nothing beats actually touching and physically trying a product, so I think there will always be a need for physical stores.
With choice at a mindboggling level, how do you focus your retail partners on the value of your portfolio?
We start with good products. We don’t sell rubbish. We focus on quality products that deliver value and high rates of customer satisfaction. Our customers tend to be very loyal and our retailers benefit from repeat purchases. Our retailers know that and are happy to take on our brands as a result. We develop great relationships with our retailers and give them high levels of customer service. We also service our end users via our socials where we field a lot of product and distribution questions. We’re always happy to refer potential customers to a retailer.
How do you see your category’s progress once this current global pandemic has passed?
The future is looking bright for the scooter market. Families have seen the benefits of outdoor scooter time and should continue to participate in family walks/scoots. Adults may want to avoid public transport and switch to short commutes by scooter instead. Teenagers are getting outside again and heading to skate parks in droves. We’re predicting continued strong sales in the coming year.
How have you seen the progress of eCommerce across the market over the past 12 months?
We’ve seen high growth with our online retailers. The pandemic forced a lot of consumers to buy online, particularly in Melbourne, and although delivery times could vary wildly, consumers have become more confident buying online. Online stores have also become more user friendly, return policies more generous, products are presented with better photography and descriptions – all making for better online shopping experiences. We also invest in influencer marketing which in turn drives demand for online sales.
The pandemic forced a lot of consumers to buy online, particularly in Melbourne, and although delivery times could vary wildly, consumers have become more confident buying online.Brett Varga
So what’s next for Active Outthere?
We’re going to continue to bring great brands and innovative products to the Australian market. The Globber Explorer Trike 4in1 is a great example — this product begins as an ‘infant trike’ for a 10 month old and converts to a ‘guided trike’ when they turn 18 months, then to a ‘training trike’ when the child turns two and finally to a fully-fledged ‘balance bike’ when they’re ready. This will be a big focus of ours in the coming year. We also expect electric scooters to grow and we’re even expanding into skateboards early next year — watch this space!
We really appreciate you taking the time to provide us with a great insight into your business Brett and it seems with the support of really great brands and some innovative marketing that the sky is your limit. We would really like to check in with you again soon to learn about your progress. All the best for the rest of 2020.