Cotton On’s New Zealand country manager Mark Singleton yesterday announced that the Australian company intends to double down on its commitment to New Zealand. It currently employes 1300 staff across 131 Kiwi stores, but over the next three years, it will boost store numbers by around 50 percent and nearly double its staff.
In addition, the company is soon to open a new country hub in Parnell, allowing it to increase its head office staff from 21 to around 70 by 2018.
Cotton On chief financial officer Michael Hardwick spoke at the Queen St store about the company’s rapid expansion. Cotton On has been on fast-forward recently, opening over 300 new stores internationally this year alone. Hardwick spoke of an ambitious plan to open 150 new stores in the 120 days leading up to this Christmas.
However, Hardwick emphasised that the company is not a start-up, and in fact will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. “It took 15 years to get stores in New Zealand,” he says.
New Zealand was Cotton On’s first international expansion. It entered in 2006, and now has 131 stores here, which represent all seven Cotton On brands: Cotton On; Cotton On Kids; Cotton On Body; Rubi; factorie; Typo and Supre. An eighth, t-shirt outlet T-Bar, doesn’t seem to be present in New Zealand yet.
Hardwick described New Zealand as “a market of firsts”, emphasising the country’s strategic importance for Cotton On. The Kiwi stores are the first in the world to open each day, giving the others a lead on customer reactions to new goods introduced overnight.
“It invariably sets the tone for the day you’re going to have,” Hardwick says.
Cotton On sees New Zealand as an “innovation hub” filled with early adopters unafraid to give honest feedback. Hardwick says Kiwis “will give you the good and the bad reads” on their preferences for new items, which allows Cotton On to test products such as its ‘jeggings’ in our market before rolling them out worldwide.
The Kiwi stores are also trailblazers in the field of store design, with Cotton On’s multibrand strategy first trialled at the Queensgate branch.
Hardwick says New Zealand is one of five international management hubs, allowing management to run the Kiwi business more or less autonomously.
“We’re really pleased to have created New Zealand as a standalone business.”