Raju Vuppalapati is chief executive of Australian apparel company R.M.Williams. Specialising in boots, the retailer has taken its outback chic around the globe. We asked Vuppalapati about R.M.Williams’ plans for New Zealand.
R.M.Williams is opening flagship stores in New York City, London, Auckland and Wellington this year. Most people wouldn’t view our biggest city and our capital as logical follow-ons from the first two centres – how does New Zealand fit into R.M.Williams’ global strategy?
It is important for us to be ale to share the unique craftsmanship of R.M.Williams along with its heritage with the world. We have been watching New Zealand’s economy including the growth in GDP, house prices, and retail and feel it is an environment that will continue to strengthen, and that is something we want to be a part of.
Also, with the often-tough climate conditions of New Zealand it is the perfect environment for R.M.Williams product. Our products are purposely built from the boots up, to last a lifetime and can endure the harsh conditions of then Australian outback.
Some global retail companies have used New Zealand as a test market for products which are later rolled out worldwide. Is R.M.Williams likely to pursue this approach?
Not at this stage, the offering of R.M.Williams product in both our Wellington and Auckland stores will reflect the availability in the Australian market.
Our New Zealand stores will carry an extensive collection of our best products including the newly introduced burnished leather ‘Craftsman’ boot for men, the stylish lace up ‘Rickaby’ boot, new women’s ‘Adelaide’ boot, iconic handmade plaited belts, crafted leather wallets, accessories, along men’s and women’s apparel.
They will also carry R.M.Williams’ new ‘Bespoke’ service. Our Bespoke service allows customers to create their own unique pair of Craftsman or Adelaide boots.
I understand R.M.Williams is targeting new demographics with a wider footwear and apparel offer. Can you tell us a bit about these products, and the consumer trends that are driving demand for them?
When designing new product we are looking to the heritage of R.M.Williams for inspiration and interpreting it in a contemporary way to offer our customers exciting new product. For example, in our SS17 collection the brand’s ‘Rider’ denim jacket has been given new life, coming in a washed-and-worn style as well as ridged black denim, and also modern, sueded leather.
As the brand has embarked on a global-expansion strategy, we need to be offering apparel and footwear for our global customer that is suited to diverse tastes.
The brand’s global styling will reflect the preferences of the global market, while also reflecting the rugged and dependable look that has always characterised R.M.Williams, which is the heart of the brand’s appeal.
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 745 August/September 2016