Tweed Heads, NSW
NSW Far North Coast cycling and triathlon apparel manufacturer Cannibal Australia is winding up its operations after 33 years in the industry.
Founder and CEO Glenn Forbes announced last month he had made a sudden decision to wrap up the company, attributing the decision to the overwhelming presence of ‘social media brands’ and a personal wake-up call.
“The significance of what I’ve been doing for 33 years has been overshadowed by the social media phenomenon,” he said.
“These days social media brands can just write their own bio and promote it and people think you have credibility. I’m too busy to chase those votes and people’s emotions. There wouldn’t be many weeks I’ve done under 60 hours and there were years of doing more than 70 or 80.
“We were going really well up until the last eight years, with the further rise of social media. People wanted something new and to read something positive. They really prided themselves on finding things for a cheaper price, without a real understanding of quality and how items are produced.
“We’re at our peak of our game, our fits are better than any time we’ve been in business.
“Social media brands like Black Sheep and Wind Republic did well during COVID because they have minimal overheads. It costs us three times more to produce garments. People say that’s your decision to produce here but they don’t understand why we do it. It just not worth having the discussion.
“We’re on the Queensland border and the past couple of years have been so hard. I lost staff I’ve had for years” said Glenn, referring to COVID border restrictions that impeded staff who lived in Queensland and worked in NSW.
“Manufacturing is getting harder in Australia and I lost a really good friend recently, which triggered me. Seeing how he lived life, making the most of every breath then dying at 43 of sarcoma, was a real wake-up call for me.
“I’m more sad about him than I am about closing my business.
“I still love coming into work but my wife is right, how much is enough. I’ve sacrificed a fair bit and I need to open my mind to explore a few things.”
At 63 years of age, Glenn says he has no regrets about the business decisions he has made – apart from failing to find a way to clone himself.
“I’m not one bit sad. I’ve given it my best shot but manufacturing in Australia has always been my number one goal. I didn’t want to use poor people to make my clothes.
“With all these brands who get their garments made overseas, their ‘made in China’ wording on their labelling should be the same size as their ‘proudly designed in Australia’.
“Growing up on a farm I was well aware of climate. My brand has been amazing with carbon footprint.”
Glenn sees a lot of greenwashing among many ‘social media’ brands, particularly promotion of recycled products. Instead, he pins his environmentally friendly business on localised production and manufacturing a high-quality product that will last 10 years.
“I look back and I know I’ve had a good life. The company could have been much bigger if I’d moved to the city and gone to China 25 years ago when the opportunities arose but I stuck by what I think is integrity.
“I think I’ve done good by the planet by not manufacturing offshore. I am proud on keeping true to myself and staying ‘made in Australia’.
“I honestly think we are one of the greenest cycling/triathlon companies in the world.”
Cannibal is still busy satisfying a number of larger orders and had another 35 orders come in on Friday alone.
“We’re selling all our products at 33% off by jumping on our website and typing in the code GAPYEAR33. I have fabrics to sell and I have equipment on the market,” he added.
“I even bought an automatic cutting machine built in Australia. I live by the sword and die by the sword, and believe in what I preach.
“By the middle of August I’d like to be out of here completely.”
He then plans to head to Canada for eight weeks.
“I just want to go snowboarding and breathe the mountain air and reflect on what I’ve done,” he said.
“And we have a little farm at Currumbin Valley, so I’ll always be occupied.
“I’ve had interest to sell Cannibal but it would need to be in the right hands. It’s like selling your kids.
“It’s such a good brand and there’s things in the pipeline. Cannibal might end up going straight to snowboarding. It would be a perfect brand for the snow industry.”