Kiwi heritage retailer Bing, Harris & Co closes down after 157 years

  • News
  • February 26, 2015
  • Sarah Dunn
Kiwi heritage retailer Bing, Harris & Co closes down after 157 years

The company is owned by fellow retail clothing business Rodd & Gunn New Zealand. Chief executive and majority shareholder Mike Beagley, who is also Rodd and Gunn’s managing director, said closures of Bing Harris’ stores began in December and would be completed this week.

He told the New Zealand Herald that the company was being shut down in favour of the more successful Rodd & Gunn.

Since its first foray into the US market nearly three years ago, Rodd & Gunn products are now available in 221 stores across 44 US States, not to mention Canada. It has been in Australia for 20 years, and the Australian market now accouints for 70% of its annual $80 million turnover. Rodd & Gunn started life in New Zealand in 1946.

"We have decided to close Bing Harris to focus on the expansion of Rodd & Gunn into the US, which requires a huge amount of time and capital,” Beagley says.

Bing, Harris & Co was founded in Dunedin in 1858 as a general merchant, warehousing provider and importer before moving into manufacturing dry goods, clothing and footwear. Bing, Harris & Co was relaunched in its current format during 2012, with womenswear added a year later.

Former shareholder, Pohutakawa Private Equity Ltd, said in its 2013 annual report that Bing, Harris & Co targeted the “male youth customer” after its relaunch. That year, the brand had 23 stores in Australia.

Pohutakawa’s report said Australian market conditions and the devaluation of the Australian dollar relative to the Kiwi had created challenging conditions for New Zealand retailers across the Tasman. This situation had adversely affected Rodd & Gunn.

Beagley today confirmed the leases of the five remaining Bing, Harris & Co’s stores in New Zealand and some of its 16 Australian stores had been taken over by footwear distributor Accent Group, which stocks fashion brands such as Skechers and Dr Martens. He said Accent had already opened stores in most of the locations.

Beagley told the Herald that Bing, Harris & Co had been tracking well, but Rodd & Gunn had to make a decision about where its resources were best spent when Accent approached it about the leases.

Bing, Harris & Co’s website is currently in the final stages of being shut down. Due to very low stock levels, most sections are empty.

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