Could you tell us a bit about yourself, what you sell at CONTRA and how you got started?
After many years speaking to parkrunners, ordinary people who felt marginalised and forgotten by the big sportswear brands, and noticing how the big players were focused on maximising profit regardless of ethics, I decided to do something about it.
We began developing the CONTRA brand in 2017, with the aim of doing things differently. We wanted to create ethical sports clothing in sizes that fit ordinary people, in colours that don’t promote gender stereotyping, and manufactured in European factories that pay staff fair wages.
All of the profits made go towards supporting UK-based charity parkrun in its mission to create a healthier and happier planet. parkrun provide free, five km timed events that take place every Saturday morning and 2k events for children on a Sunday morning, at over 2,000 locations in 21 different countries.
The CONTRA product range includes base layers, t-shirts, tights, capri pants and hoodies in a range of colours and designs, with everything coming in ten sizes for both men and women.
parkrun events are held every Saturday, free of charge, and are open to everyone. There are currently more than 6 million registered parkrunners worldwide.
By purchasing clothing from CONTRA, customers are helping to support the parkrun movement and ensuring it remains free for everyone, forever. It’s a virtuous circle where no one is taken advantage of.
What did it take to get your first products in stock? Has that changed since you started?
We have chosen to specifically use ethical manufacturers in Europe. We also ensure that we are making our clothing from high quality materials, using ethical practices throughout the entire manufacturing process.
We worked with a clothing designer, Tim Soar, to help get the designs produced and sourced at different factories across Europe to manufacture different garments.
How did you get your first sale?
We introduced the brand on social media a month or so before the site launched, and built a level of intrigue and anticipation of what was to come. When the site was ready, we launched the store through an email newsletter to the parkrun database, and we were generating sales within minutes!
What obstacles and challenges have you overcome along the way?
Ours is a competitive marketplace to get into. The established brands have significant market share and very high awareness. We have worked hard to ensure CONTRA is sustainable - we haven’t taken on any external investment and have managed to build and grow the brand with the same team that manage parkrun.
What influenced your decision to use Shopify?
Ease-of-use to get started and to manage the store. We also appreciate the reliability and security, as well as the future-proof nature of the platform.
What was the process like to get started? Is there anything you wish you had known then that you know now?
We set up the site ourselves and found it to be a great platform to get up and running with. For the first year we relied on a basic-designed theme, but we have now used a Shopify Expert to redesign our store to reflect the brand and imagery and products in a better light and to professionalise our offering.
What Shopify apps do you currently use? Which apps are most important to your business and why?
EasyTabs - makes creating product page tabs so much easier, with no code and just a simple heading tag to generate a product page tab (great for our non techy team to update content)
Google Shopping - helps us push our products onto Google ads
Campaign Monitor - to integrate with our email marketing platform and allow segmenting of data
What theme did you choose for your site and why?
What strategies have you used to attract more leads and grow Contra?
Social media has played a large part, as has email marketing. Since then, we have built up our own database of loyal CONTRA customers. We have also taken our product on the road to parkrun events up and down the country to allow participants to try our items before they buy. We have been using some Google ads/shopping and Facebook ads, recently employing an agency to manage these campaigns and provide organic SEO.
What are some of the most effective ways that you interact with your customers?
The parkrun roadshows generate great feedback, and our email newsletter are highly effective in generating direct sales. We’re really active on social media and love it when we see someone feeling great and getting active in CONTRA gear.
Are there any metrics you can share in terms of order volume, monthly sales, increased revenue, growth %, etc.?
We’ve hit a monthly total of nearly 600 units sold for more than $33k in revenue per month from Sept 2018 - Sept 2019, bringing us to over 7,000 orders in our first full year in business. We are anticipating even more growth and success over the next several years.
To what do you attribute those positive metrics?
Developing a product that isn’t designed only for the fitness fanatic with the perfect body, but something that has been created for the masses who want to keep fit, look good and feel great. The concept has struck a chord with this audience and the wide range of options that fit well for smaller and larger sizes, along with the strong ethical manufacturing principles have really gone down well.
What are you working towards now?
Of course we are focusing our efforts on growing brand awareness and increasing sales. But we also want to offer the best range of products that appeal to the whole community because of what CONTRA stands for: fairness and equality.
Where can we learn more?
~ Paul Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun and CONTRA Founder ~