Colombian beachwear maker Ondademar becoming global presence

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Colombian swim and resort apparel maker Ondademar, which owns approximately 50 beachwear stores worldwide and exports to approximately 80 countries, continues opening new stores and introducing new styles as part of a very fast expansion.

“From just one store in 2007, it currently has 50 stores all over the world, “ company CEO Juan German Carvajal told Latin Business Daily by phone from Colombia on Thursday.

The company, which started with only two people 15 years ago, was able to fuel its fast expansion thanks to the Colombian investment fund Tribeca, which bought Ondademar in 2007, Carvajal said.

Tribeca's backing allowed the design teams to add new lines, which always have been inspired by resort style.

Ondademar expanded from just swimwear for women into accessories, bags, hats and sandals. Later, it added men's clothing, including swimsuits and linen shirts. Then it added lines for teens and children. Now it even has beachwear for babies.

“Our sales have multiplied 9 or 10 times what they were in 2007,” Carvajal said.

Sales in stores represent about 70 percent of total sales, but the company also has a market it calls “wholesale,” which includes sales to U.S. department stores, including Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York and Bloomingdale´s. Wholesale sales are now 30 percent of the total.

The company's goods and apparel already are available in Les Galleries Lafayette in Paris and many other parts of the world, but its bigger international presence is by far in the U.S.

In the U.S., it has five stores -- four in Florida and one in California. It also has stores in Aruba and Puerto Rico. In Colombia, it has 32 stores.

In Mexico, it has seven stores in coastal areas and in the capital, Carvajal said.

The company soon plans to open a store in Panama, with three stores in the Dominican Republic and one in Curaçao set up for operation under a franchise. The brand also has a presence in Costa Rica where it is sold in boutiques.

Ondademar keeps exploring designs, silhouettes and colors. “Our stores have also undergone this evolution. Now their design is similar to beach houses,” Carvajal said. 

The apparel is different from others sold in the U.S., Europe or even elsewhere in Latin America, as the clothing carries additional flourishes, such as embroidery in linen textures. In addition, the metal applications used on the apparel are gold-plated, he Carvajal said.

Ondademar delayed plans to enter Europe with its own stores a few years ago as  economic difficulties worsened, but it may retake the initiative in the future.

Of the 49 stores opened as of late September, 37 are its own and the rest are franchises. Ondademar is the Colombian beachwear company with the biggest international presence, Carvajal said.