At times, it’s been a white-knuckle ride for this homegrown value apparel retailer, but Postie seems to be facing its second century in business with confidence.
Postie arose from a store called TA Dellaca Drapery & Boots opened by Thomas Dellaca in the West Coast region of Globe Hill in 1909. A former miner who arrived in New Zealand from the Australian goldfields, Dellaca used a family inheritance of £68 as capital to open his shop. Like many Gold Rush-era entrepreneurs, Dellaca’s stock was chosen for its appeal to miners, but when the mine shut down in 1919, he was forced to move the business to nearby Reefton.
The success of the Reefton store during the 1930s and 1940s saw a second outlet open in Westport in 1946, which soon widened the business’s scope to include dress fabrics, furnishing, knitting supplies, hosiery and ladieswear. A fashion-focused branch opened in Greymouth in 1979, and a ‘Drapery Discounter’ outlet store also opened.
In 1982, TA Dellaca tested a new brand and channel by sending out a newsprint catalogue titled ‘Mail Order Warehouse’ to consumers who replied to ads in the New Zealand Women’s Weekly and New Zealand Farmer.
Mail Order Warehouse had produced a colour catalogue, Postie Fashions, by 1983, and by 1984, the two mail-order businesses were receiving up to 600 orders a day.
A third Dellaca-owned brand, Clothes for Less, opened a first store in Westport in 1988, and spread across the West Coast during the early 1990s. By 1996, Clothes for Less stores were rebranded to Postie Plus.
Postie Plus’s mail-order business was closed in 2001 in response to the success of the physical stores, and Postie Plus acquired the Babycity brand in 2002, followed by women’s apparel chain Rendells and manchester chain Arbuckles in 2003.
In September of that year, Postie Plus was floated on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, taking it out of the hands of the Dellaca family for the first time. They retained a significant shareholding, however. Its shares were issued at $1, giving it a $20 million IPO.
Unfortunately, the company didn’t perform well for some years following this point. Postie Plus experimented with a brand aimed at 18-35s, Point Zero, during the mid-2000s, launching the brand in 2006 and shuttering it two years later.
In 2008 it shut the last of its Westport warehousing operations and shifted its head office and distribution to Christchurch. It also sold Arbuckles that year.
In 2012, it sold Babycity, and shifted head office and distribution to Auckland following the Christchurch earthquake. News of financial trouble first emerged at this time, and in 2014, Postie was purchased from voluntary administration by a South African investor, Pepkor. Out of the 82 remaining Postie Plus stores, 65 were kept, and 64 of its 640 staff were let go.
Pepkor was itself acquired in 2015 by Steinhoff International. As of 2018, Steinhoff has designated Postie as part of subsidiary company Greenlit Brands.
In 2016, Pepkor enacted what it described as a “responsible retailing” EDLP model which saw over a million of Postie Plus’ products reduced in price by 30 percent. As of 2019, Postie has 63 stores and employs 420 people.
Postie celebrated its 110-year milestone this year with a campaign starring New Zealand musician Stan Walker, who performs his 2018 hit ‘Thank You’. In March 2019, it reported its year-on-year sales were up 17.9 percent to revenue of $81.2 million. It anticipates to hit $100 million revenue within the next two years.
Postie chief executive Rod Orrock says the introduction of Walker heralds a new, modern direction in Postie’s marketing, promising it will “always celebrate its Kiwi roots, and ensure value remains its promise.”
“Postie’s stellar performance has been the result of a number of incremental changes. We’ve taken greater care in listening to our customers, we’ve kept our eye firmly on value and quality, and we’ve compounded upon this by embracing online, moving to higher footfall areas in mall locations and always thinking about the Kiwi mum and her family.”
This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 761 April / May 2019