Three decades ago, the founders of Roly made T-shirts by hand in a garage. Today, it‘s an international brand with 10,000 styles and ambitions for further growth, as Images discovers
Roberto Talón Toledo, Gorfactory‘s managing director
In 1988, Fernando Rubio and his wife Geli Retamar began making plain white T-shirts for local businesses. Based in a small town called Santomera, in Murcia, south-east Spain, the young couple set up the business in their garage. Fernando distributed the T-shirts and dealt with the fabric suppliers and the customers, while Geli ran the workshop, cutting and sewing the T-shirts. There was just one model of T-shirt available: it was white and had short sleeves and a round neck. Their young daughter grew up among bales of these tees. Initially the T-shirts were sold for events, particularly for nightclubs, which was a growing sector at that time, as well as for promotions and souvenirs.
After a few years, the couple moved the growing business out of the garage, and since then, it has expanded rapidly as both the number of garments and the volume of sales have continued to climb upwards. Today, Fernando and Geli‘s business is known as Gorfactory, which comprises the Roly clothing brand and Made to Order, a bespoke manufacturing service. There are 300 employees, and the company is present in more than 80 countries worldwide. Gorfactory‘s managing director, Roberto Talón Toledo, explains: “Time, effort, perseverance, the incorporation of a team with a lot of enthusiasm and willing to take the risk of ‘all or nothing‘ on many occasions, has led us to where we are today.”
Roberto says the appeal of Roly‘s garments is down to how they design them. “We control every detail, we are on top of the entire production process, and that is evident in the garments that make up the collection. In addition, we have a very wide range of colours, sizes and styles, from summer to winter, work, sports, casual, urban and also, as we like fashion, every year we have some clothes that are a little surprising to give ideas and freshness to our clients‘ day-to-day work.”
The brand also opts for high quality, retail images of its styles. “The paper catalogue or the website must do justice to the quality of our garments,“ he says. “We would like everyone who sees our catalogue or visits our website to have a garment in their hands to touch and to discover its extraordinary price-quality ratio, but that is not possible, so we have to make every effort with photography.”
Gorfactory also offers a bespoke service under its Made to Order line. “Our catalogue is finite and textile options are infinite, so basically what we want is our client to know that, with a little planning, the options are endless and any garment they want can be produced,“ Roberto explains. “We have many clients that lead us to manufacturing for small and large multinational companies; we manufacture brands that would be surprising if it were known that they were Gorfactory products.” The company also provides uniforms for global companies in sectors ranging from catering to transport.
Investing in the future
Since 2014, the company has tripled its annual sales and the number of garment styles it sells has increased from 4,800 to almost 10,000. Roberto says they haven’t missed a trade show in the past five years, and all the stahave put in a huge amount of effort to achieve this growth. Stock levels have had to be increased to six times the level they were in 2014 to cope with the demand. As well as its 46,000sq m headquarters in Murcia, which incorporates offices, showroom and warehouse, the company has facilities in Madrid, Barcelona and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. As the company continually exceeds its forecasts, it has had to undertake new expansion projects every year for the past four years. By the end of 2019, the total warehouse area will be 44,500sq m. The growth has not been limited to building more warehouse space though – the company has carried out improvements in technology and R&D “to position us as one of the best logistics centres at the present time“, Roberto says.
He continues: “The automation of logistics has been essential for a company like ours where the challenge is to serve more customers every day, more orders and more styles.” Since 2005 the company has been driving forward its investment and uptake of new technology; Roberto says the company is now “a pioneer in our sector”, adding that apart from a German company, “the rest of the players didn’t stop manual preparation until 2015″. For customers in the UK, this investment in automation means there is no minimum order, and ordering can be done swiftly online. The order is placed, the goods are automatically located and the order is then prepared for dispatch via a system “based on robots“ – all overseen by a human to ensure accuracy. A back office service is available with a British phoneline manned from 8am-5.30pm.
Despite its growth, the philosophy of the company has remained the same, believes Roberto. “Our business culture is a family‘s one – large, but a family one – in which we try to involve our team and our clients, because we are convinced that this type of relationship doesn‘t leave any problem overlooked.“ In the past five years, only four members of staff have chosen to leave the company, an indication that the philosophy is working. The founders, Fernando and Geli, still closely follow the day-to-day running of the company, although they have now delegated all the functions and most of the decisions to the professional and experienced management team. The couple‘s daughters and their husbands also work at the company, ensuring the family spirit remains.
The company has encountered its share of challenges along the way, but its response to these obstacles has allowed it to flourish. “Undoubtedly, the company has experienced two major challenges that stand out above the rest: the transition from being a Spanish manufacturer to an international importer between 1998 and 2000, and the [financial] crisis of 2007 [which coincided] with one of the largest investments made by the company in automating all order preparation; but without a doubt, today we are here, in the position that we are in, due to those two brave decisions,” concludes Roberto.
The company is currently working on a project that will see it generating its electricity from solar sources. It has also renewed its mobile maintenance fleet with equipment that employs very efficient batteries and charging systems using the latest technology, while its sales force is starting to travel in hybrid vehicles. The philosophy of reuse then recycle is also applied to all waste, confirms Roberto. He adds: “Very soon, we aim to be able to account for our carbon footprint in the world and the measures we are taking to combat it.”