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Making Fashion Affordable
by Beverly Dykes
Its corporate website description of the inspiration behind the name states “To ‘Cotton On’ to something means to understand or discover the potential of a great idea.” The Cotton On Group is renowned for offering customers globally relevant fashion apparel and accessories at affordable prices. The concept’s history dates to 1991, with the opening of the first store in East Geelong, Australia, followed quickly by a second opening and subsequent expansion to regional Victoria. In 23 years, the concept has grown to become Australia’s largest value fashion group, with eight brands in over 1,300 retail stores positioned in 17 countries globally.
Based in North Geelong, Australia, the fashion forward clothing retailer Cotton On has a strong international presence, having operated stores in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia under the brand names Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Rubi Shoes, Typo and Cotton On Body. Its foray into the United States began with the successful launch of Cotton On clothing stores in key shopping destinations throughout Southern California, beginning with a store opened in Los Angeles in 2009. In 2011, the first units to debut in Germany and South Africa were opened. In 2012 CO. by Cotton On was launched; the chain entered the Philippines and Thailand; Typo and Cotton On Kids stores were launched in the U.S.; and the company’s 1000th store was opened. In 2013, the chain opened stores in five new countries and its workforce roster of team associates hit 19,000 people. In 2014 the Group officially established regional headquarters in Asia, USA, South Africa and Brazil (in conjunction with its first store there having recently opened in Sao Paulo).
From modest beginnings, the stores have evolved into sought out clothing destinations, with the core merchandise offerings having also evolved to encompass intimates, sleepwear and active wear, prompting the launch of Cotton On Body; footwear under the Rubi Shoes label; and gifts and stationery items featured at Typo stores. The corporate vision going forward is to continue opening stores under the Cotton On Group umbrella.
The principle categories of clothing that Cotton On sells are geared toward value conscious men and women seeking basic fashion staples to supplement their casual daily wardrobe. The appeal of shopping at Cotton On lies in its offering of seasonally wearable, versatile apparel pieces in a range of color choices, featuring up-to-the-minute design elements. The majority of individual items are generally priced from $15 to $35.
For women, there are tanks, top, jackets, shorts, skirts, dresses, underwear, and accessories (including jewelry, bags, belts and shoes). The store promotes its ample denim product lines, the various style features of which are distinguished by names like “Rachel” (for women’s boyfriend jeans), and “Spitfire” (for the currently popular skinny jean styles). They also have available bootleg and straight leg fits of women’s jeans, to accommodate a broad range of customer style preferences. Store displays incorporate complementary items, such as coordinated jewelry, belts and boots, serving as inspiration for accessorizing the clothing pieces. For the guys, there are likewise, equally affordable tees, tanks, shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, pants and jeans lines.
Another aspect of the brand that has gained a loyal following among modern day consumers are Cotton On’s efforts at donating profits toward worthy causes through the philanthropic arm of the business, the Cotton On Foundation. Although the retailer has been raising funds for charities since its inception, the Cotton On Foundation was officially registered in November 2007, as an initiative aimed at contributing to viable causes throughout Geelong. The Foundation’s registration has enabled the introduction of further initiatives, such as the “Message In a Bottle” bottled water distribution campaign. The Cotton On Foundation has also developed Run Geelong, an annual run/walk fundraiser that raises money for the Geelong Hospital’s Children’s Ward, and other charities and projects, including the ongoing development of a village in Uganda called Mannya. Customers of the store can take pride in knowing that their purchases of designated charity merchandise (such as beaded bracelets and themed tote bags) help support the Cotton On Foundation’s projects and efforts at helping to build sustainable futures and empowering remote and disadvantaged communities around the globe.
In addition to its international operations, Cotton On currently has 20+ stores opened in the U.S., having grown its customer base in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Utah. The concept utilizes 2,500 to 8,000 sq. ft. in lifestyle centers, outlet centers, community and neighborhood strip centers, and storefronts in downtown shopping districts. Among desired co-tenants are fashion-oriented, upscale retailers, and entertainment uses that generate foot traffic throughout the day and evening hours.
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