In 2004, Padraic McKeever decided to turn his passion for Gaelic football and his experience in sportswear sales into a business opportunity. His vision was to grow an entirely new sports retail brand from scratch.
Beginning theGAAstore.com in his spare bedroom, he developed a concept for combining the new company’s own-label goods with recognised brands to create a one-stop-shop for GAA clothing, equipment and accessories.
Explains Padraic: “I had previously worked for a sportswear retailer and understood both the market and the opportunity to capture market share and deliver a specialist portfolio tailored to the requirements of GAA players and enthusiasts.
“The idea was to start small and scale the business up, so I started from a spare room at my home in County Armagh and we have grown to become a leading online sportswear company across Ireland and the UK, distributing to customers around the world.”
Since its early days, the company has not only grown in terms of sales volume but has also diversified to provide sportswear, equipment and accessories for a wide range of sports, including football, rugby, running and fitness. It has retained its niche as the ‘Irish Sports Specialist’, however, extending its portfolio from Gaelic Football to include all sports.
Padraic continues: “Because I love sport and I understand the sportswear retail market I knew that many of my customers would also extend the range of products they buy from us if we offered a wider variety of products.
“We’ve stayed true to our roots with the Gaelic Football and Hurling products we sell. This gives us a real differentiator both in Ireland and in the UK, where many locations have a strong tradition of Irish sport. Offering products for a wider range of sports means that we appeal to a larger market, and we have developed an easy to use website and excellent service to support repeat business and word of mouth recommendations.”
The GAAstore website is categorised by sport, with dedicated sections for gifts and Irish County kit. The diverse offering online is also reflected in a brand new ‘bricks and mortar’ retail store in Craigavon, supporting the brand and reiterating the company’s success as a formidable challenger in the competitive sports retail market.
Less than two decades since the company was first established, theGAAstore is now part of the globally-recognised and respected ‘Intersport’ buying group, with customers around the world.
High demand for club-branded products has helped to transform theGAAstore.com into one of the UK and Ireland’s biggest teamwear suppliers, offering brands including Adidas, Nike, Puma and Canterbury, alongside the company’s own McKeever kit. The company’s team wear motto, “bringing global brands to local heroes,” has struck a real chord with the GAA fraternity.
Padraic continues: “It has been a hair-raising, roller-coaster of a ride at times, but we’re still here, still a family-run business and still growing at a rapid rate. “It’s been a meteoric rise and it’s thrilling to look forward to where the next ten years might take us.”
The company trades through two websites of its own, TheGAAStore.com and TheHouseofSport.com, along with Amazon and eBay and its bricks and mortar stores.
The business has scaled up successfully and grown its customer base globally but had reached a stage where its existing facilities and processes were no longer aligned to their needs.
“To some extent,” Padraic explains, “we had become a victim of our own success. We needed to find a partner that could help us make sure our growth was more sustainable by taking some of the pressure off our team and integrating our software, sales, management and fulfilment to enable us to maintain high service levels to customers.
“Another online retailer had recommended Exact Abacus to us having used their fulfilment, technology and management systems, and we decided to approach them to see if they had the range of services we needed.”
Padraic knew that a software solution alone would not be sufficient to address theGAAStore’s need for process improvement and integration, so his goal was to work with e-commerce experts that could offer a 3600 approach across the company, based on proven methodologies.
He adds: “Our business had been built entirely on our own ideas and experience. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, we wanted to buy in support from the experts.”
theGAAStore currently uses Exact Abacus’ fulfilment services, integrated technology and consultancy to help ease the pressure on the company’s team, maintain service levels and enhance processes with technology-driven functionality that will enable the company to continue to grow.
Padraic continues: “Software in isolation would not have made the impact we needed and it was clear from the beginning that the integrated approach that Exact Abacus could offer to answering all our needs within a single team made them an ideal partner for our business.
“The technology they have been able to offer us, combined with their efficient fulfilment service and sound advice on everything from process design to how we lay out our warehouse has resulted in a transformation of our business. Exact Abacus has enabled us to save management time, improve our service to customers and achieve better approval ratings; all of which put us in a robust position for future growth.”
Thanks to Exact Abacus’ consultancy advice, theGAAStore’s warehouse layout has been re-formatted to maximise spatial efficiency, with new workflows applied to every department. The company has also invested in modern handling equipment and has implemented a new fulfilment platform with full integration across all sales channels.
Padraic explains: “With Exact Abacus’ help, transformation of our business took just three months and we are now a much leaner operation. Some of the benefits were immediately obvious – we went live with the new system just before the Christmas peak sales period in 2016 and managed to process double the number of orders we’d usually handle!”
After implementing significant change with Exact Abacus’ support, theGAAStore is focusing on achieving marginal gains that will deliver continuous improvement to the business and its service levels. Meanwhile, Exact Abacus continues to develop its technology and refine its service offer and GAAStore plans to continue building on the current relationship in the future.
Meanwhile, Exact Abacus continues to develop its technology and refine its service offer and theGAAStore plans to continue building on the current relationship in the future.
Padraic adds: “In addition to Exact Abacus’ proven technology, we love the company’s practical approach and the fact that their software is complemented by years of experience and process improvement best practice.
“Looking ahead, we aim to continue improving our goods inwards efficiency and improving data quality in the system to benefit our parcel routing and pick/pack speed. We know we can rely on Exact Abacus support with this and the latest version of their software will enable us to implement perpetual inventory, which is built into the picking module to further enhance stock accuracy.
“I have already recommended Exact Abacus to other online retail companies. They are a valued partner of theGAAstore.com and we look forward to seeing how their technology evolves in the future.”
Since working with Exact Abacus, theGAAstore.com’s Trustpilot rating has risen to 8.5 and is still rising. The company’s same day dispatch rate has averaged 97.5% for 2017.
theGAAStore has also benefitted from sales growth, cost efficiencies and recouped management time, enabling re-deployment of personnel to drive sales and marketing activity.