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How Duer Brought the World’s Most Comfortable Pants to a Global Market

By Diane Amato

Published July 25, 2023 • 4 Min Read

Duer is an apparel business that believes getting dressed should be simple. “By that, I mean with a few well-made, versatile pieces that look great and perform, you should be able to do everything you want in a day without having to change clothes,” says Duer co-founder Gary Lenett in a recent conversation with RBC. Lenett and his team have built a business based on this philosophy by combining natural and performance fibres to achieve premium fabrics with stretch, softness, moisture management, strength and style.

The evolution of an idea to international appeal

After a 30-year career in the denim industry, Lenett was tired of the never-ending trend cycles and constant travel. As he determined his next move, he sold his car, choosing instead to ride his bike to work and between meetings. Little did he know at the time that this change in routine would lead to Duer.

“My commute into meetings left me searching for denim that was sophisticated enough to wear to work but with the stretch and comfort needed to handle the ride,” says Lenett. “This was the genesis of performance denim, which then led to additional categories of performance fabrics for bottoms, tops and outwear for men and women.”

As with most start-ups, the first few years were the most difficult for the launch team based out of Vancouver. “You can’t do it all yourself and need to sell others on your vision,” says Lenett. Fortunately, he found a partner overseas to handle their production abroad, and they spent two years manufacturing and testing the product before going to market. Initially with no revenue coming in it was a stressful time – but once they started selling, it was immediately clear they were onto something special. Customers were elated – and so was the Duer team.

Going Global: reaching the urban adventurer

Taking their business to a global market was always part of Lenett’s plan. “I had always envisioned Duer as a global, omnichannel business,” he says, believing that the nature of their products – lifestyle clothing for the urban adventurer – suited part of the European market as much, if not more, than the North American market. With a strategy to sell products through their own channels first, either e-commerce or retail storefronts, they gained insights that helped them predict the success of a specific product and ensure there was brand awareness before investing in a new market.

With a partnership that has been in place since the inception of Duer, Lenett shares that RBC has been an invaluable contributor, not only financially, but also through the trade advice that has helped to drive the growth of their business. The bank’s strategic guidance on expansion opportunities has also helped them make smart decisions about new markets. “RBC’s value for us goes way beyond simple financing,” he says. “Because our business has been cash flow positive for so many years, we rarely need much, if any, capital assistance. Yet we meet every quarter to share our strategies and challenges – RBC has assisted us in everything from employee benefits to letters of credit.”

RBC has over 100 years of experience helping Canadian businesses like Duer trade globally, offering comprehensive resources, solutions and tools to help companies find the right markets and expand their business. Beyond that, RBC’s Trade Finance Specialists also offer advice on bidding overseas, obtaining advance payments and improving cash flow.

“In the past, the idea of a small global business would have been an oxymoron,” says Lenett. “Now with e-commerce it is entirely possible to sell products globally regardless of the size of your business.”

Since opening their doors eight years ago, Duer has grown into an omnichannel business with dedicated storefronts across North America. They have also experienced consecutive years of growth upwards of 50%, expanding in key domestic markets while growing their ecommerce business and a network of wholesale partners across 25 countries. Successful at home and internationally, Duer’s brand appeal has certainly gone global.

Our international trade specialists can help you navigate your expansion so you can Go Global with confidence.

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This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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