The US is the brand’s most successful market, with Kulani Kinis being one of the most in-demand bikini labels in North America. Atkins said the size and scale of the market makes it easier to find their target customer.
“We think our brand really speaks to a specific customer that wants something cute, ahead-of-trend and fun. And a lot of the younger generations in the USA are looking for something new and different. And they are used to new brands coming into the market and being disruptive,” she said.
While a competitive market, Kulani Kinis has proven popular with customers by prioritising customer service, fast international shipping and high quality products, the latter being a major bugbear with consumers in this category. Reality TV star Kylie Jenner is currently the subject of much social media backlash over poor quality materials used for her new swimwear label Kylie Swim.
Atkins said that as the brand grows, they are understanding their customer base better.
“We are getting better at finding that same type of customer in many different countries around the world,” she said.
“The challenge we face is to give them that same experience as what we provide to the USA.”
Now the duo is planning to invest further in the Australian business, where they believe there is a lack of innovative players, and they wish to tap into Europe’s travel culture.
“There have not been any emerging brands in swimwear domestically that have grown to a scale where they challenge and disrupt the more traditional players. But we think it’s time for that to happen,” Atkins said.
“We also have our eyes on European expansion as we feel the culture of beach, resort and travel holidays is strong across that region.”
Minimising FX conversion fees
Like any global business sending and receiving funds in a variety of currencies, Kulani Kinis has faced challenges and learned some hard lessons when it comes to foreign exchange (FX).
Understanding the impact currency conversions and FX fee structures can have on costs and profits has been essential to Kulani’s business growth, helping it pull in 80 per cent of revenue from overseas (approximately AU$9 million).
Atkins said they needed to work hard to make the customer’s experience easy.
“You really need to offer native currencies to your different customers overseas. The USA customer really only understands the USD. Australian customers only want to buy in AUD. The biggest challenge is allowing customers to use the currency they feel most familiar with,” she said.
“Sometimes technology gets in the way and sometimes it’s a regulatory issue.”
The business teamed up with OFX to pay overseas suppliers directly, minimising the number of conversions needed.
Ed Wiley, director of strategy partnerships – e-commerce at OFX, said e-commerce businesses often fail to factor currency conversions into their financial strategy, which can be 2-8 per cent of their overseas revenue.
“It’s often missed, due to many marketplaces and payment gateways automatically converting your overseas revenues into your local currency e.g. AUD with a 2-4 per cent margin built into their exchange rate,” Wiley told Inside Retail.
As most Australian sellers have to pay their manufacturers in USD, they are then hit with currency conversion twice on international revenues, Wiley explained, leaving businesses at risk of losing a chunk of profit.
“This can be easily rectified by creating a natural hedge for your USD sales revenue by working with an FX specialist who can help you cut out unnecessary currency conversions and provide better FX management,” Wiley said.
His top tips are to consider implementing a “well-rounded” FX strategy.
“Risk management tools such as Forward Contracts allow you to fix exchange rates for up to 12 months, which can help businesses plan ahead and get more certainty on budgeted costs, especially during times of volatility or large orders and sales periods.
“A multi-currency account can also provide a natural hedge where you also have expenses in the overseas currencies you sell in e.g. supplier payments and VAT. These accounts also give you much more flexibility to decide when you wish to convert your funds.”
He advises having multi-currency accounts in each country of each currency, as this will be a requirement by marketplaces and payment gateways.
“A multi-currency account is like having local accounts in the markets your business operates in, so processes like paying overseas suppliers can be made directly and without excessive FX transfer fees,” he said.