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Tri Mountain Reaches the Peak of Corporate Fashion

Tri-Mountain founder Daniel Tsai had sourced for customers all over the world, even working for major department stores such as Macys, for 20 years starting in the 1970s until deciding to try his hand at real estate development in Los Angeles. Timing is everything, and what he predicted to be the collapse of the West Coast real estate market in the early 1990s led Tsai take over an established sporting goods business. Among all the baseball bats, basketballs and soccer gear was a baseball jacket that was a consistent seller. That jacket led Tsai to return in 1994 to the apparel
industry that he knew so well and to what he did best in life.

“He went back to his apparel roots, learning from customers what they were looking for, and the rest is history. Tri-Mountain was born, and the product line grew dramatically,” says Glenn Oyoung, Tri-Mountains Vice President of Marketing. “This is now a second-generation family business. Daniels son Danny Tsai is
the companys VP of merchandising and leads Tri-Mountains design and manufacturing group. Daughter Jennifer Tsai is VP of operations and oversees our customer service and distribution groups. The family takes a great amount of pride in Tri-Mountains success and attributes it to their extended family of sales representatives throughout the country and the employee partners at headquarters.”

Family involvement was a cornerstone of the business from the start. Daniel leaned on his wife, Rose, to help grow the infant business and spread the brand. Rose set aside her successful career in computer programming to manage the customer service and operations side of Tri-Mountain. The couple would juggle schedules to attend as many tradeshows as possible, sometimes even splitting up to attend two shows at the same time. Their meager beginnings meant they set up, manned and dismantled the booths themselves.

Sporting goods were the initial focus,
thanks to that now-important baseball jacket. But the Tsais quickly expanded their offerings to meet the requests from other industries.

“From there weve been able to branch out into the promotional products industry and the uniform market. In the last few years our items have become more functional, more technical in nature, and we now have a wide variety of brands to address all kinds of needs,” Oyoung says. “It used to be that our end users were mainly from the corporate world, but today we also make lines for the restaurant industry, high visibility for construction, racing, and golf courses and resorts.”

Tri-Mountain produces four main product lines. Its main Tri-Mountain brand includes corporate casual, high-visibility workwear, restaurant apparel and other general-needs items. The Tri-Mountain Gold line caters to the luxury golf and resort apparel needs, Tri-Mountain performance brand items are technical apparel like moisture-wicking and water-resistant pieces aimed mostly at team sports, and finally TMR brand items target racing- and motorsports-inspired apparel. Each brand can include any number of products including polos and dress shirts, outerwear like fleeces and jackets, and specialty items like ANSI-certified high-visibility apparel.

Oyoung says, “Our claim to fame in the early 90s was that we were one of the first suppliers to understand the importance of extended sizes. We have always been known for our ability to stock extended sizes across a wide variety of styles and to keep them in stock. Today over half of our line comes in extended sizes, up to 4XL for ladies and 6XLT for men.”

Along with the growth in product offerings came a corresponding growth in the number of employees. Now, Tri-Mountain employs more than 100 people at the Irwindale, Calif., headquarters. Another 24 sales representatives are located across the country. Oyoung describes the Irwindale location as 350,000 square feet designed by Daniel Tsai himself to create a well-organized space blending corporate offices, decoration facilities and the distribution center. It was important to Tsai that the building help promote teamwork and efficiency in all levels of the company.

Embroidery and heat-transfer are handled in house except for exceptionally large orders. Oyoung says Tri-Mountain prefers to manage as many of the processes as possible so they can control the quality and service. Tri-Mountain also offers private label services, from logoed bagging to label switching and custom manufacturing. Distributors have come to rely on Tri-Mountain as a partner in doing what it takes to help close big deals. It provides a catalog of services to its distributors including image libraries, customizable websites, custom catalogs, branded displays, flyer-creation tools, gift box wrapping for courting special clients and more. Even factory and showroom tours are available to distributors and their large clients.

Oyoung says, “We own our building, so we can make adjustments as needed. We are constantly working on ways to make our shipping and receiving process more and more efficient so that we can continue to provide our customers with a world-class purchasing experience.”

Of its tens of thousands of orders per year, well over 99 percent ship complete. Tri-Mountain can maintain that high level of fulfillment thanks to its ability to stock nearly twice the industry standard. Thats an element that has become essential in this economy where distributors and retailers alike are downsizing their inventory outlay so they can maintain higher immediate cash flow. Tri-Mountains huge warehouse is stacked not only with its huge variety of products but also the extended range of sizes and both mens and womens cuts on many products.

“We understand our job is to provide a wide variety of styles to help meet as many needs as possible. We have really focused on bringing a lot of more retail or fashion-forward pieces to market, especially in the last two years,” says Oyoung. “We see that the uniform market is evolving. End users demand that uniform pieces look and feel just as stylish and comfortable as retail pieces, yet still require the quality, durability and affordability that we have always been asked to provide. So that makes it even more important for suppliers like Tri-Mountain to push ourselves to keep progressing when it comes to design, sourcing and manufacturing.”

Oyoung says that idea is part of the reason for launching the separate brand lines. On top of its more standard product offerings, Tri-Mountain has committed to expanding into the more specialized items, including those demanded by the traditional blue goods sectors. Oyoung says this is helping increase the total price on an average sale, but it “more importantly helps our distributors make more sales and profits because it takes us away from exclusively selling basic commodity-type items.”

Tri-Mountain uses a combination of print catalogs and its website to help its distributors move more merchandise. The catalogs main appeal is its simple design with professional photography. Its got a clean look that makes it easy for apparel experts and novices alike to find information quickly and accurately. Tri-Mountain also produces a series of mini-catalogs for specific apparel niches high visibility is one example. This gives the company a launching point from which to spotlight new products, brand features, performance enhancements and more.

The website, which Oyoung says accounts for about a third of the orders and growing, is a constant work in progress. He says, “It is imperative to have a well-designed website that makes it easy for both distributors and end users to research and be immersed in the brand. We find that a website that is leading edge must continue to evolve every year or it will be left behind as the technology progresses. To that end, were in the midst of a complete overhaul and re-design of our website. Im very excited to see it launch in the fall, and we are hopeful that it will make it so much easier to be a Tri-Mountain distributor.”

Oyoung calls the catalogs and website the “sales floor” since the company does business with industry-savvy, and often market-specific, distributors instead of directly to end users. The marketing focus for Tri-Mountain is to provide the information and tools that show off the brands and then let the products speak for themselves. It builds its distributor base through print ads in major trade publications, web advertising, email newsletters, tradeshows and word of mouth.

Tri-Mountain has been riding a wave of simple, custom uniforms across a variety of industries. But there still have been trends it has needed to keep pace with. One of the biggest recent changes in the uniform industry that Oyoung specifies is the demand for garments that are fashion current and available in womens cuts. He says uniform manufacturers and distributors are being asked to show up with this years fashion trends this year not two or three years down the line. And the days of just dressing a woman in a mens small are gone.

“We like this direction because we understand that fundamentally were not in the golf shirt business or the jacket business; were in the fashion business,” he says. “We feel our strength is in providing the industry with cutting-edge designs, performance fabrics and great brands that your customers and end users can get excited by.”

As Tri-Mountain expands deeper into is newly targeted market segments, the same foundation of customer service, quality and value will be essential, Oyoung says. Winning new clients will be a process centered on the key elements that have already proven to be successful over the last 16-plus years. Being a family-owned and family-operated business draws the kinds of distributors who value working with a core set of dedicated people; these are people who really love what they do and strive to be the best at it.

“I think the Tri-Mountain story is one of hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and risk taking. At each step along the way, we never felt alone because we not only had a family of people who we could trust on our side, but we also had our customers out there rooting us on, telling us what problems we could solve for them and partnering with us to grow our business right along with theirs,” Oyoung says. “Listening to the customer is basic and covered in so many business books, but it is truly the most important thing an entrepreneur needs to practice.”

 

Tri-Mountain

4889 4th St.
Irwindale, CA 91706-2194
(800) 824-6464
www.trimountain.com

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