Apparel retailer Postie+ was put into voluntary administration just over year ago, but it has since made a bold return to the retail market.
The voluntary administration was brought on by a number of reasons: market pressure, trading losses and supply chain disruptions after it outsourced its distribution centre to a third party when it moved its head office from Christchurch to Auckland.
Several changes were made to turn the company's fortunes around.
South African firm Pepkor purchased the company in July 2014. At the time, it said it would use its purchasing power to reduce stock costs and fatten margins.
It also recently appointed a new CEO in April. Henry Lee replaced Richard Binns, who was the general manager of operations at No 1 Shoes prior to Postie.
Lee comes from a strong apparel and fashion background. He was Witchery’s COO from 2008 until 2012. He has also worked with Country Road and Nine West and is one of three partners who run Australian business support company KUBA Retail Partners.
Last month, Postie+ opened up a new flagship store at Westfield mall in Albany.
Lee says the store opening is Postie+ moving into a new phase of existence.
"We are taking the best of what Postie+ is known and loved for and combining that with a new vision, new vigour and an even stronger value proposition," he says.
The shop has a both an entirely new look designed by Saatchi & Saatchi and new brands joining the fray, such as Bonds and Ackermans.
See The Register's Q&A with Lee below on Postie's comeback and what's in store for the future.
1. Postie+ closed 12 stores and axed 64 workers while under voluntary administration a little over a year ago, yet it’s now investing in a new flagship store. Is the new store part of a turnaround strategy?
The decision to close 12 stores was made by the previous owners of Postie Plus Group Ltd, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on this. However, we still have 65 thriving stores across New Zealand. The opening of our new flagship store in Albany, showcases all the hard work that have been undertaken, in the last year, to turnaround the business. Every retail touch point has been reconsidered and importantly, there have been vast improvements in the range and product offer.
2. What else is being done to turn Postie+ around from where it was a year ago?
The main focus of the last year has been on improving customer experience and reviewing the range and product proposition.
We have reviewed pricing architecture and reduced retail prices by up to 35 percent across all departments. In addition, we have improved our quality proposition, reviewed our fits and complemented our core essentials with more fashionable items, particularly in womenswear.
Our kidswear and baby range has improved dramatically and represents incredible value as we have been able to leverage Pepkor’s scale and supply chain. We have introduced some exciting new brands to our portfolio, including: Bonds, Tilt, Baby Berry, and Mango.
We have done a lot of work to get greater clarity around our brand and to improve customer experience, including a comprehensive project to review our in-store experience; to re-think the navigation and layout of each store, to review how offers and product information is communicated – resulting in a new, more modern store fit-out to take us forward into the future.
Our second year will be about further refinement; improving our range and product offer, as we believe we can bring even more value, more fashion, and better quality items into stores.
To help us we have recently implemented a new ERP system and CRM that will provide invaluable insights into our business, customers and their purchasing behaviours. A customer loyalty scheme is currently in planning stages and we have some exciting marketing initiatives that will enable us to talk more directly, and personally with our customers.
3. Tell us about the strategy behind this new flagship store - what's different?
The Albany store is our vision for the new Postie+ representing a little of our heritage and what customers love, with a lot more of what we ought to be.
We enlisted the services of Saatchi & Saatchi Design Worldwide to review our brand identity and every part of the store environment - from the display windows, mannequins, floor layout, fixtures, floor covering, service counters, changing rooms, and our point-of-sale messages. We also completely reconfigured the way we display and merchandise our products in store – making it a far more enticing shopping experience. Beyond the in store environment, customers are most excited about the improvement in our product offer. We are seeing strong sales lifts in both womenswear and kidswear, and that bodes well for the new season’s range.
4. Is there going to be a broader rebranding of Postie+?
The changes to the ‘brand’ have been substantial and extend beyond the visual changes we see with our logo, shopping bags or new letterhead. We have done significant work around brand strategy and values, and there is still more to do to ensure alignment to our culture. This will be the focus of our business in the next year.
5. The press release seems to imply that there will be more flagships. How many? Where and when will the next one be?
Our focus is on improving our stores; we are not actively seeking new stores. However, as was the case in Albany, if a fantastic opportunity presents itself we will not pass this up. Our next project is a reconfiguration of our Lynn Mall store, updating it with the new store concept. We are expecting an opening date in mid-November.
6. What’s Pepkor’s role in this?
Pepkor has over 4,000 retail store fronts, across South Africa, Europe, UK, and Australia. They provide Postie+ with knowledge, experience, scale, and financial clout. Their influence can be seen throughout the entire process of a vertical business – from supply chain, logistics, design and all the way to stores and display. Our product teams not only have access to some of the best suppliers and manufacturers from across the globe, but they have access to a design studio based in Belgium, that feeds the latest trends and designs ‘live’ to our offices in New Zealand. And undoubtedly, we would not be able to provide our customers with the value proposition we see in stores today without the scale that Pepkor affords us.
Keep an eye out - a gallery of the new look store will be featured on The Register in the coming weeks.