We’ll take a break from today until early January and won’t be posting current events stories during this time. However, we’ll keep you entertained over the Christmas break with stories from our Retail Yearbook series. Prominent retailers have shared their favourite moments from 2015 and in many cases, have had a go at predicting what 2016 will bring.
To kick it off, I thought I’d provide a few extra Q&As of my own.
Biggest whoopsie: From Hitler lingerie, disappearing websites, secrecy around garment manufacturing practices and the disaster that was ‘New Zealand’s Biggest Retail Sale’ at Harvey Norman, there was as much chaos as you’d expect from an industry as complicated and challenging as retail. We know retailers work hard to remain competitive in a difficult market – well done to everyone who made a bold play and watched their business benefit, and for those who didn’t have such a good outcome, well, there’s always next year.
Retail hero of the year: Time Out bookstore, which created a wonderful display of highly-regarded banned books in response to the censorship of Ted Dawe’s Into the River. Staff got around rules prohibiting the sale or display of Into the River by putting it in a paper bag. The display quietly but firmly underlined the futility of banning books, and showed that retailers can be activists too.
Most-read story: By a country mile, it’s ‘Ethical clothing companies revealed: Just Jeans, Valley Girl, Glassons and other retailers fail test’. This story really struck a chord with readers – there seems to be an enormous consumer appetite for anything to do with sustainability, and ethical accountability. As a result of publicity arising from this article and others, Glassons opened up about its supply chain for the first time.
Least-read story: I think it’s safe to say Bayfair mall’s 3D holocube dove failed to impress our readers. Bayfair tried to do something digital and exciting, but instead, they did the dove.
Best stories which flew under the radar:
- The Swipe HQ saga came to our attention just as every retailer’s store went berzerk with Christmas sales. Despite the unfortunate timing, this complicated mess has affected a lot of small and market-based retailers and the story is full of unusual twists.
- We called Zara’s arrival in New Zealand before it was announced, and while we weren’t the only ones in the know, nobody else followed up those rumours as comprehensively as we did. #humblebrag
- Web security breaches can be very costly and are, objectively, no laughing matter, but I Love Ugly’s hacked website caused quite a stir at The Register when I innocently opened it up one morning. A swift Photoshop job made the image that replaced the fashion label’s website safe for less liberal workplaces.
- The July incident in which transgender woman Mary Haddock-Staniland was confronted in the changing rooms at a retail store was disgraceful. We asked what improvements in the retail industry might help reduce disrespectful behaviour from staff, and her answers were very constructive.
- While they lack the impact of a big overseas retailer’s arrival, the ongoing stories of Shanton and Wild Pair are also very relevant to the Kiwi retail scene. Postie+’s return also seemed to elicit less of a reaction than we might have expected.
- I loved visiting Tea Total’s new flagship in Mairangi Bay. It’s a great example of one person’s ideal retail store – founder Anna Salek always wanted a store, so when her wholesale business finally had the scale to support one, she went ahead and implemented decades’ worth of creative retail ideas.
Tallest order: Speaking purely as a shopper, I really, really want Uniqlo to come to New Zealand. The Japanese super-retailer nails stylish, high-quality basics in a way that no other affordable clothing label is doing right now. New Zealand’s own AS Colour hits many of the same design notes, but it lacks the scale to replicate Uniqlo’s broad product offering or those covetable designer collabs, and while merino goods are very accessible in the New Zealand market, nobody seems to be doing entry-level cashmere here yet. Uniqlo + Lemaire collection, get in my closet.
Quote of the year: Optometrist Nick Whittingham took to the stage when the store he runs with business partner Tania Richards, Specsavers Gisborne, won the Overall National Supreme Award in this year’s Top Shop. He gave a heartfelt, emotional speech and finished with these words:
“I used to think that retail was easy, just treat people how you’d like to be treated yourself. That’s not good enough now. We all do more than that.”