SBIA caught up with Brad Munro from Boomerangz Thongs, who gave us the low down on the evolution of their business from conception phase to design & production, right through to the expansion of the business.
So Brad, tell us where Boomerangz Thongs all began?
The Problem (blowout /can’t get I to the pub!)
Way back before we even started the business, I was travelling around Europe while the Soccer World Cup was on. My friends and I had been dying to go to one of the beer halls in Germany only to suffer from “the dreaded thong blow-out” (when the plug snaps off the strap) within metres from the front entrance. I wasn’t allowed in because wearing only one thong (or flip flop, as they are also known) wasn’t considered appropriate footwear!
My friend and I sat out the front for a while trying some MacGyver like solutions to my problem including trying to put the strap back together with a paperclip, we borrowed a cigarette lighter and tried melting the rubber together… all to no avail… My friend ended up going in and borrowed one of our other friend’s thongs to smuggle out so I could wear them in!
Getting rejected entry from a beer hall must have been a traumatic experience, once you recovered where did you go from there?
A year or so later, I met my soon to be business partner who was telling me of a similar experience he had where in the space of two steps, BOTH of his thongs had blown out, making him trip over and leaving him stranded barefoot and needing to buy a new pair (closest pair will do). We got together, discovered that a lot of the thongs on the market were all the same and decided they could use some improvement so we started the business and set about solving this common problem.
Crowdfunding Campaign Launch
The idea behind the crowdfunding campaign was to not only raise money for production, but to see if people would buy our product. That is the best viability test for the success of any product… Will people part with their hard-earned cash for it?
We launched the new range through the crowd funding platform website Indiegogo.com. We sold $10,000 worth in the first hour, $25,000 a week later, reached our goal of $30,000 and finished with close to $50,000 worth of sales. Astonishingly we had confirmed that the product was something that people wanted, and our customers were willing to part with their cash to get their feet in a pair of our thongs.
Run us through the design phase?
The “Thong Blowout” is the number one complaint with open toe footwear.
Firstly, we asked a lot of questions. We questioned customers, friends, shop owners, retail staff and anyone who would talk to us. We discovered the biggest pain point with this type of footwear is when the straps break, and you are left hopping around in one thong or walking barefoot to the nearest store to buy a pair of ‘cheap pluggers’ to get you through.
We found that it was better for the plug to pull through than to snap off completely which obviously renders the thong useless. Even our straps can break sometimes. Due to the nature of the material of the straps and how people treat them, it can happen. Being able to replace the straps means that you don’t need to wear in a new pair, they last longer and importantly, less pairs end up in land fill over time. We offer our customers free replacement straps if they have a blowout.
The new design for minimising blow-outs allowed the straps and bases to become interchangeable. They became fully customisable thongs with the ability to swap over your straps or bases and mix and match colours whenever you like.
The new interchangeable range is all based around the ‘boomerang’ plugs so changing to the name “Boomerangz” was a bit of a no-brainer. The business name varies in each country depending on the local slang for the word ‘Thongs’. Boomerangz Thongs, Boomerangz Flip Flops, Boomerangz Sandals and so on. The international marketability also made a lot of sense. The humble ‘thong’ is seen as an Australian icon, as is the ‘boomerang’. Merging the two icons together works well and it helps people understand our main point of difference. In today’s fast fashion world, thongs (or flip flops, jandals or sandals as they are also known) haven’t changed and seemed to have slipped through the cracks when it comes to innovation.
The plan to explore international markets came about sooner than we first anticipated as we are a very seasonal product. We needed to get that year-round income or as we like to call it; ‘the never-ending summer’. Every now and then we would receive enquiries from people in other countries that somehow heard about or saw our thongs somewhere and was wondering if we would ship internationally. Which we can, but unfortunately the postage costs are often more than the cost of the thongs themselves.
Thus far, we have our product in the U.S.A., India, the U.K. and more recently in the islands of the Caribbean. International expansion and testing is a timely and expensive exercise. Testing these markets has allowed us to amend our original strategies and learn some new strategies as we actively look to partner with a global distribution company.
One of the issues I find in Aussie retail from a supplier perspective, and from a consumer perspective is that a lot of Australian retailers are still selling the same stuff. There is still an oversaturation of the same brands and same products. People no longer buy because that’s what’s available in store. They now have the option to go online and find cool, niche brands that a lot of people don’t know about. Oversaturation leads to retail and e-commerce price wars, a war that nobody wins.
Last Summer saw our thongs land in select City Beach stores as well as over 40 independent surf and streetwear stores around Australia.
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