Animals have always been Peter Alexander’s passion. Born in South Africa, he moved to Melbourne when he was a baby and has lived in Melbourne ever since.
As a child, Alexander explained that he always failed and was no good at sports either, but was loved by his family and small circle of friends. Alexander never attended university as he struggled with learning disabilities since he was a kid. “When I finished school, I decided that university wasn’t for me,” he said. Alexander added that a formal education is no longer 100 percent necessary in this industry. “Having said that, it would always help as knowledge is power to an extent. I think that personality and passion can count for more than work experience and training.”
In the early days of Peter Alexander, he would take a suitcase of samples to buying appointments. Alexander would sell his range to buyers which he added was no easy feat. “Introducing a new brand is always hard but if you have something new to say, fashion people will listen because it’s an industry that survives on newness and reason to buy,” he explained.
Penelope, the dachshund, entered his life in 1997 when Alexander was out for lunch. He saw her in a window of a pet shop and was horrified to see such a beautiful puppy had been marked down. “When I arrived back at work I said ‘I got a hot dog for lunch!’,” he said. After that, she became the mascot for the brand. “She’s a lot prettier than me!” Alexander joked.
Peter Alexander joined the Just Group in 2000 before being stocked in their first department store, MYER. In 1990, an unfortunate incident happened where 2,000 pairs of pyjamas were cancelled. “When this happened, I really had to think on my feet,” he said. Alexander had to quickly think on his feet and tried to find a way to turn this disaster into an opportunity. “Mail order seemed like the best way to sell all of this stock, and so the Peter Alexander catalogue business was born. So, from a department cancelling my order and my business almost folding it lead me to a new adventure, direct mail.”
The first Peter Alexander store opened in Melbourne Central in 2004, which was quickly followed by Chadstone. Now Peter Alexander has 112 stores across Australia and New Zealand. Since conception, the brand has evolved from ladies’ sleepwear to now being a men’s, children’s, women’s and lifestyle brand.
The brand communicates with its customers mainly through social media via their Facebook and Instagram. Customers on their Sweet Dreams mailing list also receive ongoing communication from the team about the launch of each new collection. They are also first to access any special sales events. He added that their store teams are also talking to their customers. “We always try to take on board what our customers are saying to the teams at our stores. Whether that is feedback about a certain collection or a style of pyjama and we do get a lot of requests!”
The physical stores are all about the Peter Alexander experience that bring the catalogues and other products to life. The stores are created to engage with their customer’s senses on all levels – to be able to feel the fabrics and smell candles and hand creams. “I want people to walk out thinking they had a fun and unexpected experience, even if they didn’t buy anything.” However, he added that online is obviously a completely different story. Their online world is more about convenience and is great for their overseas customers who don’t live close to one of the brand’s stores.
Alexander spends his spare time with his dogs, watching trashy TV and sleeping.
The sleepwear brand has now entered its dirty thirties, Alexander said there is a lot on the horizon. “Always growing, both personally and professionally or life would be boring!”