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Manufacturer of figure skating apparel establishing national distribution network.

Manufacturer of figure skating apparel establishing national distribution network

Figure skating has always been a popular competition sport in Canada. Canadian Figure Skating Association statistics show that there are 1,389 clubs across the nation with a combined membership of 148,100.

As the sport grows in popularity, so does the demand for skating apparel. Bold colors, unique designs and lots of sparkle play a critical role in the enhancement of a skater's presentation.

Dryden's Beth Queau, owner of Twizzle Designs, is one of the leading manufacturers of skating apparel in Canada. Queau developed her talents while assuming the familiar role of a dedicated parent supporting her daughter's progress as a skater, and spending long evenings sewing competition outfits.

She explained that fabric, quality workmanship and colorful, eye-catching designs are the key to sales.

"If they see it and like it, they'll buy it," she says.

Attention to detail is very important at Twizzle Designs. Production is labor-intensive. Each garment is sewn with double seams and decorative extras such as stones are set individually by hand.

Queau's decision to go into business actually came while attending a summer skate program in Ottawa in 1987. Queau received a favorable response from a skating apparel retailer who encouraged her to market her products. Soon, Twizzle Designs was born.

Working out of a 12- by 16- foot building with two machines and one employee, Queau toured regional competitions selling directly to clubs and individuals.

In a move to establish a network of distributors, she approached specialty skate shops across Canada. Her first major order came from Inner Edge of Winnipeg, followed by Figure 8 Boutique of Ottawa. Today, Twizzle Designs has expanded representation to 50 outlets across Canada.

Last November Twizzle Designs moved to its present location at the Railway Mall in downtown Dryden. An appearance at the World Figure Skating Championships in Halifax in March provided Queau with international exposure. Although sales are not directed at the stars of the sport, it was a great opportunity to approach a mass-market of skaters who start as early as age three.

"Our focus is to manufacture a line of skate apparel which grows with your child," she explains.

Twizzle Designs produces a full array of skirts, pants and competition dress. The competition outfits begin at $150, with the more elaborate creations retailing for $400. Twizzle compliments its manufactured line with an assortment of gloves, tights and skate guards.

During peak production periods, up to 10 employees are busy cutting designs, sewing garments and applying decorative extras.

"Working in the garment industry," noted Queau, "is not a career of choice for most, due to the industry's sweat-shop image. As a rule, our employees are usually home sewers. I hire them on a six-month trial basis. They start at $5 per hour for the first three months, learning to work with the commercial equipment, sewing skirts and pants. After six months they are familiar with the production procedures and comfortable with the materials we sew."

Sales are increasing, doubling every year since 1987, with figures tripling by the end of 1990.

Queau expects to have her Canadian distribution network complete by then and to set her sights on the U.S. market for 1991.


"The U.S. Ice Skating Institute trade show in May would be our introduction," she said. "This would mean a significant increase in volume. An average order from a Canadian distributor is usually $10,000 to $20,000, while U.S. distributors could order in excess of $100,000. We must be ready to meet these expectations before approaching distributors. We can't afford to fall short."

Presently, Twizzle Designs orders material from the U.S. Import duty on the material is 20 per cent and Queau expects import duty on the finished garments to be 27 per cent. The new year will mean the introduction of the goods and services tax and, with it, increased production costs.

"Although I can apply for a rebate," stated Queau, "my cash outlay for my material will increase. As well, there will be a seven-per-cent increase at the consumer level which must be considered before we develop any new plans to expand."

PHOTO : Beth Queau, right, is the owner of Dryden-based Twizzle Designs, one of the leading manufacturers of custom figure skating apparel in Canada.
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Title Annotation:Focus on Dryden; Twizzle Designs
Author:Hopper, Jim
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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