If 2015 was the year of international retail, then 2016 was the year where Kiwi retailers sank or swam. We had a large number of liquidations and closures over the last calendar year, especially in apparel. Notable demises include Dick Smith; Kirkcaldie & Stains; Pumpkin Patch; Laura Ashley; and Temt and Valleygirl. Perpetually troubled womenswear retailer Shanton is back on struggle street, and it’s not looking good for Nosh gourmet supermarkets either.
This list is pretty daunting. There’s no denying that it’s a more competitive climate out there. However, as in the wider world, the changes that have taken place in retail over the last 12 months aren’t as black and white as “good” or “bad” – they’re just the introduction of a new set of parameters.
Within this altered landscape, many retailers are thriving, including traditional ones like Wellington jeweller The Village Goldsmith. The drive for newness and trend-led product that’s powered Kiwi consumers’ enthusiasm for “fast” international retailers like H&M, Zara and Topshop seems to have resulted in an equal and opposite hunger for authenticity, craft and provenance, which has given many small independent businesses a much-needed shot in the arm.
Unsurprisingly, as retailers scramble to adapt to a broader digital-first environment, some of the most exciting new retail concepts are happening online. My favourite ecommerce launches of 2016 include AliExpress curator Thieve; charity driven Shop Kaikoura; ethical verifier Conscious Consumers and a twist on the subscription box model, Little Big Crate.
Postie + and Farmers both unveiled significant brand updates this year, and after a long, fraught period of grave difficulty, the bookselling industry appears to be back on track. Speaking purely as a reader, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see vibrant new independent bookshops like Volume being launched, and long-standing stalwarts like Unity and Time Out continuing to thrive.
Expectations around consumer spending are high for this Christmas period, and the broader economic outlook seems to support that. Here’s to a buoyant 2017.
P.S: The Register team is taking a break from today, and will be back on deck from January 16. We’ll be posting material from the current issue of NZ Retail throughout this period to tide you over until then.