Int'l Person of Year: Garry Hurvitz

Meet Ash City Worldwide's Garry Hurvitz

Garry HurvitzWhen Garry Hurvitz – president/CEO of Toronto-based Counselor Top 40 supplier Ash City Worldwide (asi/37143) – makes pronouncements about market forces aligning overseas that will impact the industry, clients and competitors alike take notice.

Spending more than 14 weeks out of the year in places like Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Laos, China, Vietnam, Africa and Japan, Hurvitz is an avid believer in actually visiting the places where his company does business and thoroughly immersing himself in the cultures. Hurvitz is nothing if not an "all-in" kind of entrepreneur.

Hurvitz's story begins when he left school at the tender age of 12 to chase his passion as a drummer in a band. Quickly realizing the need for income, Hurvitz started selling imprinted T-shirts on the carnival circuit at 14, and then he opened the initial incarnation of his company – then called GH Enterprises – when he was 16, which led to selling "tens of thousands" of T-shirts to rock bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. A complete neophyte in the arena of international business, Hurvitz started importing from China when he was 17, and a year later, made his first trip to Asia. Now 57, he's on the road a quarter of the year on behalf of his company, which he has self-financed since 1993. "From the ages of 15 to 30, I didn't take a deep breath … I was too driven," Hurvitz says. "Now, if I don't have fun doing what I'm doing, then I'm not doing it."

Deciding to enter this industry fully in 1988, Hurvitz and his team started with five shirt styles and came up with the color "Ash" for all of them, because they didn't want to carry too many hues in case the business didn't take off. He needn't have worried. "We were having explosive growth of $25 million per year – I didn't anticipate that," Hurvitz recalls. "We were strictly in polos, T-shirts and jerseys. In the fall of 1998, I got on a plane to Korea with $30 million cash in my bag and bought $30 million worth of jackets at cost. I had inventory on the shelf nine months later."

Now, Ash City is one of the largest suppliers in the market, with more than $135 million in annual North American sales. Jonathan Isaacson, owner of Counselor Top 40 supplier Gemline (asi/56070) and Counselor's International Person of the Year in 2008, says that Hurvitz "is one of the best in the industry" when it comes to overseas sourcing and product development. "Garry brings a very deep personal knowledge base and has spent as much time in the field as almost anybody I know," says Isaacson. "He cares deeply about the product and what he is building."

So, what are Hurvitz's predictions, based on the international trends he sees firsthand and studies so closely, for the industry in the next few months? "Cotton right now is trading at 90 cents, down from $2.37," he says. "Do I see a drastic decrease in prices going forward? No. The cost of producing the cotton has gone up in leaps and bounds. China's becoming so expensive, with labor costs and the RMB being so high, and every year there's a 10% increase in wages."

Also, Hurvitz says, people aren't paying attention to the cost of crude oil and freight. "Ten percent of all the crude that's consumed in the world is just for plastics and rubber," he says. "So the cost of making polyester has gone up so much, but it hasn't been passed along yet. It will, though. Our costs will go up."

And for Ash City specifically, Hurvitz has further global plans. "I'd like to take Ash City to Asia," Hurvitz says. "There's nothing like it there."