Vance Vivian, which specialises in made-to-measure suits, is New Zealand’s only stockist of Canali. The Italian company was founded in 1934. Its Asia Pacific regional director, Vincenzo Carrieri, emphasised the commonalities between his business and Vance Vivian when he opened the store in person, saying Canali is also a third-generation family business.
I understand Vance Vivian has been on Lambton Quay for 16 years. Can you tell us about how the retail landscape in that area has changed over time?
The retail landscape on Lambton Quay has changed dramatically over the last few years. It was starting to look a little tired, but the redevelopment of the ANZ Bank building, including Nespresso; the Harbour City Centre and now our own T&G Building has revitalised this area of Lambton Quay. When this building is finally completed, and with David Jones opening in a few months, this side of Lambton Quay will become the place to be for exclusive, high end retailing.
Tell us about the refurbishment process at 201 Lambton Quay. How long did it go on for? How did you mitigate disruption to the business?
The refurbishment of this building commenced in April 2015 with stage one being the corner shops that for a few years had only held temporary tenancies. Once that area was completed, we relocated our store next door on September 2.
This area had been fully strengthened. It still retained the high stud ceiling that we were used to but because of the larger floor area and more ‘square’ shape, many customers commented on the space and height, and how different it looked. In fact, it was fractionally lower than our previous ceiling, but this made us determined to retain and improve on this ‘illusion of infinite space’ by the clever use of lighting and a darker colour palette when we returned to our refurbished location.
There was a small amount of disruption and the odd bit of dust, but hours of work and noise levels had been one of the main topics discussed with the project manager before any work was started on the building. The entire demolition/expansion/strengthening and refurbishment of our store, including the installation of the custom-made Canali fittings and flooring, as well as carpeting, plumbing, wiring, lighting and painting was completed over a five and a half month period. We returned to our store on the 18th of February 2016.
Will the refurbishment allow Vance Vivian to offer new services besides the Canali concept store?
Obviously with the added space, we are able to better display and promote our products. We also made a conscious effort to improve visibility from both sides of Lambton Quay – with new, larger signage and larger display windows to better merchandise and tell more of a story using our mannequins and adhesive window decals.
Another imported brand that, along with Canali, is exclusive to us in New Zealand – Bugatti – supplied us with several pieces of their ‘shop in shop’ furniture that allows us to showcase that brand in a separate area within Vance Vivian. This was shipped to us from Germany, and offers the customer a unique, European shopping experience. You would have to travel a long way across the world to find a similar, independently owned and managed business that stocks these brands in such close proximity within one store.
How has the concept store been received by shoppers? Do you believe it’s attracting more foot traffic to Vance Vivian?
As stated above, we have tried to bring a truly international shopping experience to the men of Wellington, and New Zealand. This new store has been very well received by both existing and new clients. We enjoy working within this environment, and actively promote ourselves as both a men’s fashion retailer leading the way in the latest in elegant, tailored, quality clothing, and also one that is proud of its history and heritage as a Wellington family business.
What’s the next big project at Vance Vivian?
The major brands we carry have suggested a possible second store in Auckland, and would be more than happy to support us in a similar way to what they have already done. At this point in time, we are happy to concentrate on building on the success of our store in surviving both the last 92 years, and also the last 12 months of refurbishment.
We are seeing a new customer coming through the doors that wants a quality product, good advice, experience and service; something that is missing from a number of stores that have either recently closed down, or simply don’t have the products or staff knowledge. We must retain the core values of our business and what we offer our customer, what it is that attracts him into our store and what he actually wants from our product.