First Manufacturing sees continued growth

No. 2 cruiser apparel line a leather alternative

First Manufacturing, the New-York based manufacturer of high-quality leather apparel, currently is the No. 2 cruiser apparel brand in the industry. And while it doesn’t have plans to move into No. 1 overnight, it’s growth has been impressive in a down economy.

“We’ve grown 10-12 percent every year for the past three years,” vice president of sales and distribution Steve Young said. “It would have been nice to have seen what we could have done in a better economy, but we’re growing, and that’s what we want.”

It’s online presence with companies like J&P Cycle, House of Harley-Davidson, Sportman’s Guide, Bluestem and Amazon, has been a huge success over the past year, with J&P selling up to five times the amount of First product that it did in its first year of carrying the brand. Starting in spring of 2013, the company’s products will be found on sites such as Menard’s and Northern Tool & Equipment.

“This is a company that’s roots are within manufacturing,” said David Howard, vice president of sales and footwear production for First Manufacturing. “What they produce is truly the finest motorcycle apparel in the industry today.”

Howard explained that First is able to provide unmatched quality due to the fact that, short of killing the animals for the hides, First does everything on site.

“[First manufacturing is] almost completely self-sufficient,” he said. “Everything from the rawhides, through the tanning process and cutting process, they are complete.”

First Manufacturing has separated itself by focusing on the quality of its product.

The men’s Sporty Scooter Jacket with reflective skulls has been one of the company’s top sellers.

“We had the manufacturing down pat and from a competitive standpoint, competitors really can’t get close to us because, again, what we’re able to do from start to finish,” Howard explained. “The quality of leather, the actual raw material, that’s what really sets the products apart.”

First carries a full line of motorcycling clothes and accessories for men and women, highlighted by jackets, vests, gloves, saddlebags, helmets and many of the name brands customers are searching for in fashion. The company’s sporty scooter jacket with reflective skulls for men, and reflective star jacket for women (with matching vest and chaps) have been its two best sellers in the category.

Price point is another area in which Howard feels there is a bit of separation.

“There’s about a 12 to 18 percent difference [from competitors] and that doesn’t affect our profitability,” he said.

First Manufacturing, based in Oceanside, N.Y., handles all of its own distribution, which Howard sees as another advantage for dealers. According to Howard, First Manufacturing has gained success largely on word-of-mouth.

“Their mentality is only manufacturing,” Howard said. “They’ve never looked any other way. Just because of the word-of-mouth, they’ve been able to run a very successful business and a very profitable business throughout these years.”

That mentality is beginning to change, however. With a continued focus on quality manufacturing, Howard said that the company hopes to branch out more in marketing.

There are 12 full-time employees in the sales department, working out of the Oceanside facility. The added focus on marketing should help call attention to the wide array of First’s clothing offerings. The company’s private label apparel includes dozens of the most recognizable brands in the fashion industry. On top of that, First’s own line of motor clothes includes its Whet Blu and First for Her brands.

First Manufacturing also provides its top-of-the-line clothing designed for safety and style within its First Racing and Xpert divisions.

Howard also revealed that First Manufacturing will be getting involved in footwear for the first time in the company’s history with a 2013 launch.

“Once it’s premiered, [the boot will] be the first in the industry that will have a climate control system that is built inside for both men and women,” Howard said.

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