Upon hearing the news of Wild Pair’s closure, I felt like I was losing an old friend.
Having grown up with the brand (we both graced the world with our presence in 1994) it feels very familiar to me.
My relationship with Wild Pair begun when I bought my first pair of now-hideous heels in that awkward tween-to-teen transition period.
They were champagne-gold, glittery wedge high heels that set me back $60, and I thought they were the coolest things ever.
In more recent times, the store became a refuge for my often unorganised self.
I could pop into almost any mall and find a new top or shoes in a hurry for an event, rather than having to trawl the internet and wait for an item to ship.
Now, there's a big hole left in the market and I don't know what shop I'll be able to dash to last minute.
You may have heard the news yesterday, but if not, here’s a refresher: Wild Pair, which is in receivership, has closed all of its stores and will cease to exist as of this Sunday.
There was an attempt to find a buyer who could revive the company, but it failed, so now it’s shutting down.
A retail expert I spoke to yesterday said Wild Pair wasn’t even necessarily doing anything wrong.
Instead, he said offshore online spending continues to rise and it’s severely impacting on stores here.
The receivers report said the same thing: there was a decline in revenue as a result of increased offshore online competition.
Wild Pair may very well be the first high-profile casualty of online shopping that young people have actually noticed.
Sure, we’ve had other middle-market fashion retailers like Identity and Jean Jones go under, but not many 20-somethings would be impacted by that.
This closure seems to have struck a chord with young people in particular.
I’ve seen hundreds of comments from shoppers who are shocked and mourning Wild Pair’s closure, complete with sad face and crying emoticons, and it makes me frustrated.
There seems to be this disconnect between where we’re spending our money and the consequences of that.
It’s as simple as this: if you choose to shop for an item online, you may be able to get it at a slightly cheaper price, but just know that there’s going to be repercussions.
While you’ve just saved yourself $10, it might be at the cost of one of your favourite local stores shutting down in the near future.
I’ve also heard the grumbles of shoppers who blame higher retail prices in New Zealand on greed, but for many I’ve talked to that’s not the case – they’re just trying to stay afloat.
Consider this explanation by Nick Paulsen, whose Newmarket store Clash Boutique shut down in 2015 because it could no longer survive in the current climate: “The reason that overseas websites can offer those prices is because they buy in volume with the idea they won’t make as much on each product, but they’ll sell a lot of it. We don’t buy in that kind of volume. We buy smaller units but still have to pay the same customs and GST. So you can see why the overseas sites can dominate the local ones.”
So if you’re okay with more stores closing, be my guest. Just don’t kick up a fuss when the next store folds.
But if you’re like me, you’ll know there’s always a time and place for in-store shopping, as there is for shopping on overseas sites – just ask my University friends how much time I spent on Asos in lectures.
By all means, keep shopping online, but if you can buy a product from a retailer you love here, do it. Support them.
It helps them stay in business, and it helps you by putting money back into our economy to go towards things affecting New Zealanders, rather the Brits or the Aussies.
With all this said, I do think there’s also a lesson here for retailers, too.
Wild Pair’s demise shows you absolutely have to differentiate yourself and give shoppers a reason to come shop with you instore.
There’s got to be some kind of appeal, whether it’s a beautiful shop interior, awesome customer service, great loyalty perks, or stocking a popular brand exclusively.
Arguably, these are some of the areas where Wild Pair fell down - and New Zealand shoppers weren’t forgiving.