My feet and I are begging Ziera to pull through

  • Opinion
  • October 4, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
My feet and I are begging Ziera to pull through

New Zealand heritage footwear retailer Ziera has gone into voluntary receivership. NZ Retail and The Register editor and associate publisher Sarah Dunn considers its place in the market and what needs to happen for it to return to form.

A few months ago, some Gen Z colleagues and I were discussing the viability of various heritage New Zealand retailers. One young woman remarked that she couldn’t believe Ziera was still in operation – she felt the product was wildly out of step with what modern consumers want.

The exact words were something like “I don’t know anyone who’d wear shoes like that.”

At the time, I was surprised Ziera’s brand perception was so negative – I wear “shoes like that” most days! - but as it turns out, she wasn’t totally off base. Ziera entered voluntary receivership last week citing a perfect storm of domestic and international pressures.

Ziera is a vertically-integrated manufacturer and retailer. It was late to the party with ecommerce, launching its first shoppable website less than three years ago, and its bricks and mortar stores are experiencing falling sales, rising rents and rising staff costs.

Its wholesale base overseas is dominated by independent retailers, which have themselves been gradually eroded by the increasing dominance of larger retailers. Tariffs resulting from the US-China trade war have made selling into the US less profitable, plus it’s been affected by supply chain issues. 

A weak New Zealand dollar have increased the cost of manufacturing while, in an unfortunate currency double-dip, weakness in the Australian dollar means Ziera is also getting poor sales margins.

Just about the only factor not cited in the administrator’s report is product.

What women want

It’s true that Ziera hasn’t quite shaken off the matronly legacy of its former brand identity, Kumfs, which it left behind in 2010. When I received the news that Ziera was in administration, the first thing I did was text my mother, who has bought her shoes almost exclusively from Ziera stores for as long as I can remember. 

She’s most likely shopping the receiver’s sale as you’re reading this, and while it hasn’t put me off the brand, I suspect many other Millennial and younger shoppers also associate Ziera with their Baby Boomer parents. 

Not only were my Gen Z colleagues unimpressed with the majority of Ziera’s styles, they expressed confusion at its price point. Apparently younger consumers now prefer to shop ‘high-low’ with a fast turnover – they’ll go for lower-priced, on-trend fast fashion shoes or mid-market sports shoes such as Nikes, and if they’re looking to spend a little extra, fashion-forward designer labels like Mi Piaci or Beau Coops will capture their spend.

Within that buying structure, there’s not much room for a long-lasting shoe in a conservative style. Gen Z shoppers seem to consider Ziera’s product overengineered for their purposes.

Silver dollars

However, there’s two macro trends on Ziera’s side – the continued market dominance of Baby Boomers, and the younger generations’ move away from uncomfortable shoes at work.

We’re all aware by now that the generation primarily targeted by Ziera, Baby Boomers, retains immense spending power. Nielsen data from 2015 revealed that these shoppers then accounted for 50 percent of FMCG sales in New Zealand, 80 percent of leisure spending and 41 percent of all new car purchases. Between 2015 and 2025, the percentage of people aged over 50 years old in New Zealand is expected grow from 38 percent to 43 percent of the total population.

Statistics New Zealand senior demographer Kim Dunstan told NZ Retail that an aging population is broadly good news for retail sales - personal income and household income tends to peak when people are in their 40s and 50s, costs fall as children leave home, and a wealth of experience translates into higher salaries.

While Ziera will need to win over Millennials and Gen Z shoppers sooner or later, it’s likely it can carry on without them quite happily for at least another 10 years. 

Heels hurt

While younger shoppers’ purchasing patterns don’t fit with Ziera’s pricing structure, their changing apparel tastes are, from a very zoomed-out perspective, a different story.

As offices become more and more casual, wearing painful heels to work every day is becoming less common. The rise of fashion sneakers like the Balenciaga Triple S means sports shoes can now be worn in most circumstances where heels were formerly appropriate, and as I look around the newsroom, not one ICG Media staffer is wearing heels over 2cm today.

According to research carried out by Mintel in 2018, US shoppers aged 18-34 are the most likely age group to purchase shoes because they are comfortable (37 percent).

In my opinion, this is only as it should be. For the vast majority of wearers, high heels hurt, and I think it’s madness that women were ever expected to regularly volunteer to wear shoes that cause physical pain. Life is too short to suffer five days a week.

Ziera’s main point of difference is its orthopaedic comfort, and it’s been basing its marketing on work shoes that won’t hurt for years now. As the next generation of female office workers jettisons pumps for sneakers, perhaps it can convince them to put on the odd ballet flat or sandal instead. 

From my perspective, it looks as if Ziera has a few perception issues to work through, but it’s by no means down and out. I’ll happily walk past a shelf of orthotic-friendly velcro-strapped numbers that make twentysomething shoppers shiver if I can find a pair of boots that are more or less on trend somewhere in-store, and I have a feeling that my mother and her Baby Boomer friends will be readying their credit cards in Ziera’s support. 

For the sake of comfortable, durable, work-appropriate footwear, I’m crossing my fingers and toes for Ziera.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Sponsored Content

New Zealand loyalty program members want rewards quickly

Research reveals New Zealanders are getting value from their programs.


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.


Visual merchandising tips from top designer Kris Ericksen

  • Design
  • October 9, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Visual merchandising tips from top designer Kris Ericksen

The Judge’s Choice award for the Welly Loves WOW Window Dressing Competition this year went to Danish jewellery retailer Dyrberg/Kern’s luminous window display. The designer behind it, Kris Ericksen of Plato Design, shares some tips on how to put together a stunning piece of visual merchandising.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Regional rollercoaster
What does retail look like in 2019 for ...
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

The Kai Box talks plant-based business

  • News
  • October 9, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
The Kai Box talks plant-based business

Auckland-based vegan food company The Kai Box is riding a wave of consumer interest in plant-based food. Co-founder John Mellows shares some thoughts on the popularity of veganism with us.

Read more

Peek inside the new Sass & Bide store at Westfield Newmarket

  • Design
  • October 8, 2019
Peek inside the new Sass & Bide store at Westfield Newmarket

The new flagship at Westfield Newmarket is Australian label Sass & Bide’s third in New Zealand and 16th in total. Take a look at its fit-out in our gallery below.

Read more
Sponsored content

Zoe & Morgan talk music

Our friends at OneMusic caught up with the lovelies at Zoe & Morgan to learn about what makes their stores hum.

Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit