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Opportunity can come from anywhere, at any time. UglyChristmasSweater.com is proof.
The 7-year-old company is the creator of one of the internet's latest viral successes: branded ugly Christmas sweaters, which prominently display iconic motifs from well-known businesses, like the Popeyes chicken sandwich or Flo, the fictional Progressive Insurance spokeswoman. And the sweaters have become very popular in a very short amount of time. The Popeyes sweater launched Wednesday, retailing for $45. On Thursday, co-founder Fred Hajjar told CNN Business that the sweater had sold out.
Companies like Tipsy Elves and Forever Collectibles have spent the last decade helping popularize ugly Christmas sweaters, to the point where they've become synonymous with the winter holidays. As I'm writing this, I'm wearing a shirt featuring an ugly Christmas sweater-style pattern. Complete coincidence. 'Tis the season.
But branded sweaters, produced at no cost to the brand? That's new. The idea reportedly came after Hajjar noticed that sales were down at the beginning of November, when holiday orders typically start. "I knew I had to do something creative, quickly," he said to CNN Business, noting that he reached out to 100 different companies to ask permission before starting production. Popeyes, already a practiced hand at viral fame, quickly agreed.
It's been a win-win: "They're getting the publicity and we're getting the traffic and sales," Hajjar said.
Later on Thursday, I spoke with the company's other co-founder, brother Mark Hajjar. He told me that UglyChristmasSweater.com's revenue has increased every year since its inception, hitting roughly $5 million in 2018. This year, the company was in danger of bucking that trend, until the Popeyes deal came together in just two weeks. Now, Hajjar says, his company is on track to hit $6 million in 2019 sales.
For me, the most notable part of the story isn't the idea. It's the speed with which the idea came together. In the span of a single month, the seasonal business went from staring down the barrel of a down year to hitting a new revenue high. All thanks to a moment of unplanned--and, I'd argue, slightly weird--opportunism.
UglyChristmasSweater.com employs 65 people across multiple Detroit warehouses. A lot of companies at that size likely would stick to the plan, especially given how quickly they'd have to move to do otherwise, and simply hope for the best.
Here's to throwing plans out the window. And embracing a little weird opportunism instead.