Home' Ballarat Enterprise : Enterprise Edition 15 Contents AS A business, Hip Pocket Workwear and
Safety ticked all the right boxes for John
and Sylvia Gleeson.
In 2008, the Ballarat couple took over the reins
of the Howitt St store from fellow husband and
wife duo Peter and Cathy Keller, who opened
the shop in 2000.
The Gleesons had previously owned and
operated the Alfred Motor Inn in Sturt St for
"I was conscious of the growth in industrial
workwear, particularly in safety compliance,"
Peter, 54, said.
"My criteria was to buy a business in Ballarat
and we came very closing to purchasing a
book store and we were looking very seriously
at another franchise so it was interesting to
"I didn't really know that it (Hip Pocket) was
a franchise, to tell you the truth, and it wasn't
until we really started to have a look to see
what else it did that I realized, and I suppose
that actually helped us really look further down
the track because it was part of a much larger
network of stores so that made our decision a
"I looked at it pretty hard and everything we
looked at ticked all the boxes in terms of its
financial structure, in terms of the way it was
heading, and it certainly looked like the industry
had tremendous growth potential."
Australia's first Hip Pocket store was opened
by young entrepreneur Hugh Norris in Bendigo
However the origins of business date back to
1946 when Hugh's' father and grandfather
opened Norris's Menswear in Bendigo.
It was whilst working in the family business that
Hugh learnt the tricks of the retail trade.
In 1993, he convinced his father to take the
workwear component out of the store and
create a stand alone business.
This came in the form of Hip Pocket's first retail
outlet, a driveway which was converted into a
shop next to the family's store.
Fast forward 17 years and the group is now
one of Australia's fastest growing destination
retailers of workwear and safety with 26 stores
In 2008, Hip Pocket went global, opening
a store on Lihir Island - LGL's flagship gold
project - in Papua New Guinea.
And in the latest edition of business magazine
BRW, the company was named Australia's 35th
fastest growing franchise.
"Since we've got on to the BRW fastest growing
franchises, the interest in the group is just
exploding," Peter, who worked in the banking
sector for 23 years, said.
"The interesting thing about the growth in the
franchise is if you look at the 50 fastest growing
franchises, there is a huge number of fast food
outlets like Boost Juice and Souvlaki King and
stuff like that so the ones that are actually in
a more heavy duty industry are few and far
Hip Pocket specialises in five key areas -
industrial workwear, corporate wear, personal
protection safety products, safety footwear, and
embroidery and screen printing.
"We cover such a broad range of things so I do
find it is a bit of a brain stretch sometimes,"
"One minute I might be discussing corporate
wardrobe with the ladies and the next minute
I'm talking about height safety, ropes and
harnesses and things like that."
Because of this, Peter admits "it's certainly
never dull, that's for sure".
"I think one of the really nice things about
this business is that we get to talk to lots of
hardworking people and people who are just
trying to get out there and do their bit," he
"Being here dispels those rumours of young
people not working hard because we see lots
and lots of young people who are making a
very clear decision to become apprentices and
take on a trade and they're coming through
and buying their first lot of clothes and they
are being mentored and coached and trained
by small business owners so we are seeing the
nice side of working life, I would think."
Story: Chloe Biggin
Pictures: Lachlan Bence &
Who, where, when: Hugh Norris opened
the first Hip Pocket Workwear and Safety
store in Bendigo in 1993.
Number of franchises: 26 Australia-wide
plus one in Papua New Guinea
Cost: A Hip Pocket business typically
costs between $190,000 and $250,000
to open. This includes the franchise fee,
fit-out and opening stock. Costs vary due
to the store size, condition of building and
works required to bring it up to standard.
Revenue: $17.18 million in 2008/09.
8 Cover Story - Franchises
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