The forecast is also good for beachwear businesswoman Anne because The Beach Factory is basking in a 67 percent annual growth despite the recession
As the summer hits, people are stripping off with confidence thanks to Anne Speak.
The sun is shining brightly on her company, The Beach Factory, and its customers can be confident of both looking good and staying safe in the sun. Whether holidaying at home, or away, the thousands of devotees to her user-friendly, one-stop website (www.beachfactory.com) will have packed everything from sun hats and Aqua shoes to board shorts and rash shirts.
And, with the dangers of the sun a burning issue - Sun Awareness Week runs from May 3 to 9, and Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign has just launched - it's good that the whole family can feel reassured.
The forecast is also good for beachwear businesswoman Anne because The Beach Factory is basking in a 67 percent annual growth despite the recession. She puts this down to finding a niche for "functional, fresh and affordable" UV protection swimwear and the desire by her customers to still take breaks despite the financial squeeze.
Now one of the most established retailers of sun protection swimwear and with deliveries packed and sent daily from the warehouse in Kent, The Beach Factory, has come a long way since the days of sorting boxes in Anne's guest room. Nevertheless, Anne is often still the one at the end of the phone fielding customer queries from the Surrey home she shares with husband Stephen, who helps to run the business, and sons Harry (16), George (15) and Arthur (11).
Anne prides herself on giving customers her personal touch and has an empathy with the lives of busy mums who seek her advice when picking out products from the likes of established brands such as O'Neill and Rip Curl as well as other UPF 50+ specialists. "If I am on the school run, they will be on the school run. If I am at a school sports day, they may well be too," she says. "I sometimes talk to them as I am making supper when they are too! I feel I know them well".
And, as someone who juggles home life and work, she totally understands those last minute orders before family holidays. This is where The Beach Factory delivers, with fast despatch of its funky, easy-wear clothing and accessories for babies, children, teens and adults.
The idea for The Beach Factory came about in 2003 when Anne and friend and co-founder Jennie Williams were looking for well-designed sun protection beachwear for their own children and pretty much drew a blank. This was odd given the growing awareness of the dangers of the sun. Indeed, when son, Harry, was five-years-old, he had a suspicious looking mole removed from his leg by plastic surgery.
With children at school and keen for a new challenge, the partners decided to build on the idea using their complementary business skills. Having worked in the buying offices of high street retailers, Anne had also spent three years in Hong Kong as production controller for one of M&S's leading suppliers. "Weekly visits to factories in China gave me a real insight into the production and forward planning cycle and, although I can't sew on a button, I do understand how managing tight time frames are critical for securing stock. This is essential when planning the buys for the Beach Factory's next season" she explains.
The early days of selling via the charity fair circuit provided a valuable opportunity to find out what customers sun protection needs were, but the partners quickly decided the internet was the way forward. Once established online with a successful range for children, the adult lines soon followed, with a focus on products for teenagers. These get the seal of approval from Anne's boys - who have been known to model them.
In 2008 Jennie stepped back from the business to send more time with her family leaving director Anne with exciting decisions to make about possible own-brand lines. For the time being though, she is bracing herself for the hectic pre-holiday period of June and July, as well as deciding what's for supper.
* Visit http://www.beachfactory.com. Email Anne Speak on email@example.com, or telephone (020) 8332 7467.
* Sun Awareness Week, May 3 to 9, is run annually by the British Association of Dermatologists
* The SunSmart campaign by Cancer Research UK this year highlights the risks of malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, for the baby boomer generation, tanning dangers for teenagers, and the need to take simple preventative steps such as using shade, applying sunscreen and wearing safe clothing. Visit SunSmart
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