• Hijab House is among the largest modest women's clothing retailers in the country. (SBS Small Business Secrets)
This mode of fashion is referred to as modest womens' clothing, but the profit potential for retailers is far from conservative.
SBS Small Business Secrets
27 Nov 2016 - 5:05 PM  UPDATED 28 Nov 2016 - 10:24 AM

"Bigger than Boxing Day" is how Hijab House owner Tarik Houchar describes a pre-Eid sale during Ramadan.

"It's chaotic - we have had people literally fight over the clothes, we have lines 700 metres long and sometimes call in security."

Houchar was not exaggerating; at a conservative estimate, there were thousands of the business' half a million annual visitors at a sale SBS attended at the Smithfield, Western Sydney store.

In one day, customers will collectively spend more than a hundred thousand dollars shopping for the outfits they'll wear to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Houchar found the inspiration for his business on a shopping trip with his sister.

"There was literally nothing available to her, the colours weren't matched to her preferences - it was all black," he said.

And so, Hijab House was born, to fill a widening gap.

He opened the doors in 2011, only to close them again two years later as overheads crept up.

"Once we closed the stores the customers realised how important Hijab House was to the community and how valued our products were."

These days, Hijab House is well and truly open for business, selling more than a hundred thousand hijabs a year, with a 300 per cent mark up on each one.

Houchar has big plans; short term the financial goal is to turnover about five million dollars annually.

"In terms of longer term, visionary goals, we would just want to be the biggest fast fashion retailer for modest dressing women, in the vein of Zara or Asos."

Despite higher costs of local production, Hijab House manufactures 30 per cent of its garments at its factory in Sydney, allowing for a faster turnaround during the busier periods such as Ramadan, when the business makes 75 per cent of its annual sales

Hijab House has 300,000 followers on Facebook and 200,000 on Instagram.

But its popularity has also made it a target; the business was part of a group of Muslim fashion houses whose Instagram accounts were hacked in February 2016.

It was an experience the staff said was devastating.

"Someone had gone into our account, changed all our passwords and began systematically deleting all our photos and replacing them with Donald trump propaganda or American political propaganda videos, guns, money, so very kind of anti-Islamic messages," Mr Houchar said.

These days, the designer says he has become something of an activist, by promoting clothing associated with Muslim culture.

"What we need to understand is that for a lot of Muslim girls, putting on the hijab is extremely difficult in a country like Australia, where people see it as a form of oppression," he said.

"It is our role to make sure all women, Muslim women who shop at Hijab House are empowered and it may be hard but in business you have a choice whether to shut down or keep fighting for the people and the customers you love."

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