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Torpedo7 evolves its bricks and mortar strategy

Torpedo7’s new flagship at Westfield Newmarket represents the next step in the evolution of this former pureplay’s bricks and mortar strategy.

By Sarah Dunn | October 15, 2019 | Design

Torpedo7 chief executive Simon West says the new store’s fit-out is intended to bring the brand to life more than in the past. While it’s packed full of technology, the store is about “green time more than screen time”.

The new store’s fit-out features a focus on recycled timber. The shopfloor is open but with clearly designated areas for different sporting pursuits such as snow sports, cycling and  camping.

It’s designed to make the most of natural light as its windows face Westfield Newmarket’s innovative glass bridge. One of its most striking features is an ‘indoor tree’ created with backlit images. 

West says the Torpedo7 brand was incubated online before its acquisition by The Warehouse Group in 2013, and the acquisition saw it morph from a pureplay to an omnichannel brand. 

It’s still in the process of growing its physical footprint – in the year to July 2019, when West was appointed CEO, Torpedo7 opened four new stores, taking its total to 18 plus one franchise in Wanaka. It’s currently transforming the brand with key focus areas including bike, snow, water, camping and apparel.

“Fundamentally, it’s a commitment to continued footprint growth,” West says of the Westfield Newmarket store.

Following the Westfield Newmarket opening in late September, Torpedo7 will soon open further stores at Tauranga’s Tauriko Business Estate, Rotorua and in 2020, Christchurch’s Northlink Shopping Centre. It’s scoping out other sites for additional stores also.

West says Torpedo7 has retained a booming online business that accounts for a much higher share of sales compared to bricks-and-mortar-first brands. He describes the business as “channel-agnostic”, explaining that its ratio of about 70 percent bricks and mortar and 30 percent online compares to a norm of mid-teens online sales for the rest of the market.

“There’s still an option to grow that presence,” West says. “For us, it’s about rolling out to a sensible level of bricks and mortar penetration.”

Torpedo7 Westfield Newmarket is part of a strategy of increasing the brand’s bricks and mortar footprint to get closer to where the market sits.

“For us, it’s about rolling out to a sensible level of bricks and mortar penetration.”

The launch of Torpedo7 Westfield Newmarket means a shift in central Auckland’s focus away from the Karangahape Rd store, which will be closed. An existing Newmarket discount outlet is being repurposed into a specialist bicycle store, which allows the Torpedo7 Westfield Newmarket to serve its inner-city customers according to their needs. Bicycles at the flagship are display-only so customers wishing to purchase bikes can collect them at the Broadway store. 

West says bicycles is an example of a product category where Torpedo7 is investing in specialist staff and more technical training. With expert staff, it can offer premium services such as custom bike builds. 

“Because Torpedo7 is a relatively young business, it’s looking across the whole business for improvements.”

The Warehouse Group released its annual report in September, which showed that Torpedo7 increased its sales 5.6 per cent year on year and gross profit increased 1.2 per cent. However, due to costs associated with the Torpedo7 store expansion programme, the business made an operating loss of $7.0m. 

“It’d be fair to say that the core Torpedo7 business has been invested in,” West says.

Now that Torpedo7 is lifting the game with a central place to shop, all the market needs to do is respond.

Noel Leeming’s digital human team member

Torpedo7 isn’t the only part of The Warehouse Group that’s rolling out significant changes at Westfield Newmarket. When the Group opened its Noel Leeming store last month, it introduced customers to a brand new AI ‘digital human team member’, Nola.

Nola is intended to help shoppers navigate the store and answer any questions they may have. Created in partnership with UneeQ and Jade, she was designed to represent the best of parts of the Noel Leeming team and their customer service ethos. 

Noel Leeming is investing in Nola’s learning and development with the aspiration she will one day play a wider role across different platforms.

Tim Edwards, Noel Leeming CEO, says “Nola is one of the first human-like interface backed by artificial intelligence to be used in the New Zealand retail space. She’s highly conversational and has a database of queries and answers that will be updated as her training progresses.” 

“We see her being a new way customers can interact in store and have committed to growing her across platforms as we learn what our customers like about her and what they want her to help with.” 
 

“Our team members are excited about how Nola will enable them to deliver great outcomes for customers by supporting wayfinding tasks so that they can focus on providing hands-on interactions,” says Edwards. 

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