After a 21-year hiatus, Kiwi outdoor and workwear label Cactus is returning to Wellington. The brand was founded there in 1992 but shifted south to Christchurch just two years later. Its founders say Cactus’s history and authenticity set it apart in an increasingly precarious industry.
Cactus’s goods are made at its factory in Christchurch, meaning it can offer customes a high level of support. All of its products are warranted to the original owner for the life of the product – it will even handle customisation.
The store it opened alongside its factory following the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes has been going well, spurring the decision to open a Wellington store to extend the company’s reach into the North Island. The store is at 241 Thorndon Quay and will employ between two and four people, including a machinist for in-store repairs and alterations.
“Cactus was born in the hills and rock faces around Wellington,” says Cactus founder and current shareholder Gwilym Griffith-Jones. “On a personal level it is exciting to be returning to the capital 21 years after we packed up and made the move south to Christchurch.”
In its press release, Cactus bemoaned the state of New Zealand’s outdoor industry:
“Over the last decade, the once proud outdoor industry in New Zealand has been decimated with brand after brand closing down, shifting production to the far east becoming entirely fashion-driven. At the same time the face of retail has changed with most of the independent outdoors retailers being drawn into the nationwide brands.”
The most recent outdoor retailer to close its doors has been Australian brand FCO, and listed Kiwi outdoor retailer Kathmandu has weathered well-publicised challenges over the past year. Back in 2013, The Warehouse Group merged clicks and bricks when it bought a majority stake in Hamilton-based Torpedo7 and then had it acquire Dunedin-based R&R Sport.
Cactus shareholder and director Ben Kepes positioned the company as something different in his statement.
“We started Cactus in Wellington around 25 years ago when Gwilym started making climbing accessories in his bedroom,” says Kepes. “The fact that the company is still owned by the same three friends and shareholders who have been involved from the start, and that we are very much bucking the industry trend by manufacturing our products entirely in New Zealand, is a testimony to the fact that we’re a company that does things differently.” “
Nowadays brands are seemingly conjured up from thin air with a veneer of pseudo-history and provenance,” says Kepes “so being a 25-year-old company focused on making products that last, and eschewing the move towards planned obsolescence and adding unnecessary features, is a breath of fresh air.”