Business & invest,
Aussie retailer & manufacturer shares relocation success - 15 years strong on the Gold Coast
Helen Stubbs | July 15, 2021
Annabel Trends moved to the Gold Coast in 2005. Since then the vertically integrated online gift shop has thrived.
Owner Sally Dunn has her finger on the pulse, with a flexible business model allowing dynamic responses to changing demands. With the finesse of Gold Coast branding, the support of over 1500 retailers nationwide, and the independence of in-house manufacturing complementing imported product lines, Annabel Trends is riding a wave of success.
HS: How did Annabel Trends start out?
Sally Dunn: My mum, Anne Dawes, started Annabel Trends in Melbourne in 1966, making soft toys for shops and school fetes. She used to put me in the pram with stock and take me store to store with deliveries! But toys were time consuming to make for a small return, so she came up with aprons and oven mitts as quick items to make. She was very much into home décor with bright colours in the ’60s. Over the years we’ve evolved and expanded to a wide range of product categories. In 1995 I joined the business as the Queensland agent, then moved to Melbourne to learn the business.
HS: Why did you decide to move Annabel Trends to the Gold Coast?
Sally Dunn: After I’d learnt all I could, I said to Mum, ‘If you want me to take over the business, I don’t want to stay in Melbourne. I want to go back to where I grew up.’
I relocated up here to Burleigh Heads and, I tell you what, what a great move that was. You’re able to live ten minutes from work, whereas in Melbourne you usually have to travel a long time to get to your factory. There’s the climate, of course … who wouldn’t want to live on the Gold Coast? It was the perfect lifestyle change and I was thrilled to be able to move.
HS: What are the advantages of running a business like Annabel Trends on the Gold Coast?
Sally Dunn: Our industrial corridor is so close the coast and to the Pacific Highway. It’s not far to the beach and people’s homes, and it’s close to the highway for freight and transport, to promptly supply our fabulous customers all around Australia.
Our factories in Melbourne were very old, while we actually custom built our factory here about five years ago. Building our own factory was a fantastic process with a local builder. They designed the factory in consultation with us and built it to our specifications—it’s very functional. Since we’ve moved up here, we’ve had significant growth. We have about 30 employees and we’re growing all the time.
HS: What does the Gold Coast offer a brand like Annabel Trends?
If you look at our Instagram and catalogues you’ll see that we give our brand a Gold Coast flavour. We feature beaches in our catalogues and lifestyle shots. We certainly have that outdoors Queensland feel. Australians have a love affair with the beach and we represent that. To say that our factory’s in Burleigh Heads, you can see people turn green with envy. It’s up there with Byron Bay and Noosa.
HS: How did Annabel Trends navigate 2020’s challenges? Has your business model or strategy adapted?
Sally Dunn: Our expansion over the last twelve months sees us doing a lot of in-house designing. We always have done in-house design, but it’s become more important because we can’t travel to China to source new products and go to the major trade shows. It forces you to be more creative, so instead of seeing products we can adapt to be our own, we’re starting from scratch. It’s meant I’ve employed more graphic designers.
Australians are travelling more within Australia, and they’re supporting little shops in country towns, so we’ve noticed an explosion of growth in areas where we hadn’t seen much activity. Once people realised Australia was a relatively safe place, and they could travel, sales went absolutely crazy.
Orders are taking longer to import from overseas, so we’ve increased in-house production. Also, we started making facemasks. Nobody could get any out of China. In one month we sold 37,000 facemasks, all out of our factory here. Now we’ve gone back to making our core products like aprons, happy wraps, snoods, robes and eye masks.
We’ve also seen a massive increase in support for Australian made products. People are keen to support ‘Australian Made’ because it means Australian jobs. Everything we make here could be made overseas but we choose local manufacturing, for a few reasons. I feel it’s where our business began and it’s really important that we hang onto some manufacturing in Australia.
I love that you have more control, particularly over quality. Nothing beats the eagle eye of my girls downstairs. They see every thread. We can also provide a bigger variety. We can make just 20 or 100 of a certain style.
HS: What do you to in your spare time, on the Gold Coast?
Sally Dunn: I take my dogs to the dog beach. Georgie plays in the water, she loves it. My poodle, Matilda, doesn’t like getting her feet wet so she rolls around in the sand. They usually come into work with me, too—Georgie’s had two soft toys made after her.
I have so many favourite restaurants in Burleigh. We call it ‘the Burleigh bubble,’ with Labart, Rick Shores, Jimmy Wah’s, and the North Room in Mermaid Beach. We’re spoilt for choice. And the coffee is great here. I reckon our coffee is better than Melbourne’s.
I also love to help out with donations where we can: The Wilderness Society, Wildcare, RSPCA, Koala Rescue Groups, and we sponsor a koala. During the bushfires we donated a couple of hundred ‘hand warmers’ as great pouches for little koalas and joeys to sit in. This morning we’re doing up a bunch of donations for the women’s shelter in Southport—some goodie bags for women who need help.
We support Super Max and Bryce, too, who donate rainbow nightlights to kids in hospital with cancer, because they’re not allowed to have soft toys. We import the nightlights and warehouse them, and pack and ship them. They also designed a series of scarves and socks for the mums and dads while they’re in the hospital with their kids. A little boy who lost his sister to cancer designed those.
I’m at the factory a lot, but it doesn’t feel like work because I’ve got great staff, everyone’s happy, and we’re working around products that are fun and practical.
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