15 Jun, 2021
Solly Lew’s Premier under pressure to return more JobKeeper
Australian Financial Review

Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments is facing renewed pressure to hand back more JobKeeper subsidies in the wake of a major upgrade this year following a bumper Mother’s Day and stellar back-to-school trading.

The name behind brands such as Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Just Jeans and Dotti has defied the wider trend of other retailers who have struggled to grow sales against last year’s lockdown surge.

In a rare move, Premier provided guidance that it is now expecting earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for its retail operations to be as much as 92 per cent higher this financial year, which ends in July.

The result was helped by reaching recent deals with landlords in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as strong demand for winter products across all brands, online sales growth, and cutting costs.

Shadow assistant minister for Treasury and charities Andrew Leigh ramped up his call for Premier to return job support it received during fiscal 2020.

“Premier Investments received $100 million in JobKeeper in 2020 and returned just $16 million,” he said. “Given that its latest earnings upgrade confirms Premier has now doubled pre-COVID profits, the company should repay every single dollar of JobKeeper it received.”

Mr Lew declined to comment further on Friday whether he would pay any of the $69 million received last fiscal year in wages support, but has previously indicated the funds were needed as “insurance” to pay staff in the event of further lockdowns.

Melbourne is only just emerging from its most recent snap lock-up for the past two weeks. Movement is still limited and there are caps on patrons in pubs and restaurants. Premier closed its 228 stores on May 27, with 49 of those in regional Victoria reopened on June 4, and the balance of metropolitan stores opened on Friday.

Premier has repaid $15.6 million in JobKeeper received in the January-half after coming under sustained fire given its record results.

Mark McInnes, outgoing chief executive of Premier Retail, said the 2021 full year EBIT upgrade is another record result.

“The strategic decision taken last year by the chairman and I to build our supply chain and significantly invest in wanted inventory for Easter, April school holidays, Mother’s Day and the winter season has ensured we are in stock, delivering strong sales and gross margin growth across all our brands,” he said.

Mr McInness is leaving on a high, as he hands over to the outgoing JB HI Fi boss Richard Murray in October. He successfully enabled customers to shop seamlessly online or in-store during the COVID-19, thanks to strategic investments made in its online capability and deals with landlords to rebase rents.

Premier flagged global sales for the first 18 weeks of the second half were up 70 per cent, pushing full-year EBIT to be 82 per cent to 92 per cent higher, or $340 million to $360 million (pre-AASB 16) for the 53 weeks ending July 31.

This is 10 per cent above consensus forecasts, and compares with the $187.2 million underlying EBIT reached in the 52 weeks ended July 2020, and $167.3 million for fiscal 2019 before the pandemic struck.

Investors piled into the stock, sending it to fresh highs, ending Friday 11¢ higher to $27.44 each. The retailer’s performance in the year to date is up 16.25 per cent.

Mr McInnes warned that the current trading environment remains extremely volatile given the ongoing COVID-19 impact on the company’s global operations, so the upgraded outlook was subject to conditions remaining strong and no further major mandated store closures.

Smiggle stores have reopened in the UK and Ireland and are trading in line with expectations, but conditions in Asia remain challenging.

Blue Ocean Equities analyst Phil Pepe called it a “very impressive result” in challenging conditions. He lifted his price target to $31.50 from $31 per share and retained his ‘buy’ call.

Airlie Funds Management portfolio manager Matt Williams is a major shareholder in Premier, who said management made the right calls on inventory.

He said he supported the chairman paying back some JobKeeper, but declined to say if further repayment was appropriate.

“This time last year, when a lot of other retailers were looking to batten down the hatches, Premier was much quicker in seeing a recovery and growth and hence acted accordingly on inventory, which has really helped them,” he said

Mr Williams added another good decision was the 2013 investment in centralised and customised distribution centre, which services all its products in Australia, allowing it to adjust stock deliveries when needed.

He noted Premier did not have to discount to move stock – helping gross margin expand in the second half up over 3.80 percentage points compared with the prior half year.

“The rebasing of rent can’t be underestimated. That’s going to be an ongoing permanent sort of benefit,” he said.

15 Jun, 2021
The Iconic names former Nike exec as general manager for Sport
Inside Retail

Lifestyle and fashion retailer The Iconic has hired former Nike executive Andrew Poole to fill its newly created role of general manager for Sport.

Poole, who will commence with the role this month, will be responsible for the retailer’s sports category, leading a cross-functional and customer-focused team.

The Iconic said the past 12 months marked a period of significant growth for the company’s Sport section, with both an increase in assortment and amplified marketing investment in full funnel integrated campaigns.

“We are thrilled to welcome Andrew to The Iconic team after an extensive global search to fill the newly created role of general manager, Sport,” said Gayle Burchell, The Iconic’s chief category officer.

“By being truly customer centric and curating a world-class offering, our sports category is an integral part of our business,” Burchell said. “We can’t wait for Andrew to bring his wealth of expertise as we deliver further strength to this category.”

Before joining The Iconic, Poole was senior sales director for Nike Sportswear for four years. In this role, Poole drove commercial functions and growth for the business through a customer-centric market strategy, recruiting and optimising high performance teams. Prior to this, Poole managed the full P&L for Nike Pacific across merchandise, tech, marketing, supply chain, finance sales and HR.

“The opportunity to apply my retail and e-commerce sports experience to a disruptive retailer like The Iconic makes this role an incredibly exciting prospect,” Poole said. “The Iconic has driven unrivalled customer loyalty and market growth and I look forward to supporting them as they continue on this impressive trajectory.”


15 Jun, 2021
R.M. Williams names new chief marketing officer
Inside Retail

Former advertising firm executive Chris Willingham has joined the senior leadership team at footwear and apparel brand R.M. Williams as its new chief marketing officer.

He will start on the new role in the coming weeks.

Willingham, former managing director of advertising and brand consulting company DDB New Zealand, will aim to drive the next phase of growth for the 89-year-old South Australia-based company.

“I’m incredibly excited to be given stewardship of such a famous, culturally important brand,” Willingham said.

“I bought my first pair of Craftsman boots when I travelled through Sydney during the ’90s and fell in love with R.M.Williams there and then.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-career opportunity and it’ll be an absolute privilege to work together with the R.M. Williams team to lead the brand through the next stage of its  evolution.”

John Hartman, chief investment officer of Tattarang, which acquired 100 per cent of R.M. Williams last year, welcomed Willingham’s appointment, and said his role will be critical in accelerating the brand’s new growth strategies across digital and international markets.

Before DDB, Willingham was the global director on the Nike brand at Wieden + Kennedy, overseeing campaigns for the 2016 Olympics and 2018 World Cup, among others. He also led BBDO’s Singaporean hub and spent nine years at Fallon in London.


9 Jun, 2021
General Pants plots trans-Tasman expansion
Inside Retail

Fashion label General Pants is set to expand to 65 stores across Australia and New Zealand as part of its growth strategy to focus on Gen Z and millennial consumers. 

General Plants said it will accelerate its store opening plan together with store refurbishments in Queensland, WA and Victoria in the next few months. In the past 12 months, the brand has opened eight new outlets, three of which are located in New Zealand. 

“In 2019, the business completed a comprehensive reset of our forward strategy and despite the challenges of Covid-19,” Sacha Laing, CEO at General Pants Co. “The business has executed well ahead of our plan and we are well positioned for the next phase of growth just ahead of our 50-year milestone next year.”

Besides the expansion plan, General Pants Co. has appointed Kate Phelps as chief merchandise officer, Jacq Vuleta as chief customer officer and Paul Budrikis as chief financial and operating officer.

9 Jun, 2021
Oh brave new world
The Australian

Perhaps a year without Australian Fashion Week was the reset that the event needed. When the Covid-19 pandemic swept into Australia early in 2020, it caused the can­cellation of the event just weeks out from its start.

Fast forward to 2021, and the event returned last week with a new-found optimism that had begun to wane in recent years.

Certainly, if one thing was trending, it was confidence.

In part, this could be because of the unique position Australia finds itself in with regards to fashion weeks. From London to Paris, the major four fashion weeks have been largely digital affairs in the past year. That has brought with it a whole new way of thinking for brands, and a long-overdue questioning of the traditional fashion week and catwalk model.

Thanks to our low Covid numbers, AFW was in the enviable position last week of being able to showcase the majority of designers in a physical format. It follows in the footsteps of the consumer-­focused Melbourne Fashion Festival in March, which was the first event of scale in the fashion arena since the pandemic took hold.

While both events had a strong physical presence, they also included a number of digital activations. For AFW and its Resort 2022 collections, designers had the option of presenting their collections in person on the catwalk, or online via short films, which nine designers opted to do.

Of these, some chose to host small events around the screening of their films, while others simply dropped them online at their ­appointed hour in the schedule.

But further to this idea of confidence, it may also have been due to the fact that those in our local ­industry who have come out the other side of the pandemic are feeling positive about the future.

Oroton creative director Sophie Holt said the brand had put on its first catwalk in 10 years – the first time with the recently introduced apparel line – “with an amazing sense of confidence”.

“Everyone is so happy to be showing and coming together,” she said. “The feeling at fashion week was so positive and so inspiring.”

Holt can be assured that come next season, women will be clamouring for the label’s slouchy striped shirt dresses and matchbox print silks.

Alexandra Smart of Ginger & Smart was another to use the word in relation to the event and the industry at present, saying that the brand was able to “move forward with confidence” – something seen in the brand’s blown-out proportions and optimistic colour palette.

“It’s great that we’re able to be out there and express what our brands all stand for, and creativity’s back on the runway,” she said. “There’s a real energy around the event. It’s an amazing moment.”

And while confidence may be a feeling, you could see it on the ­catwalk – the volume, the colour.

With so many emerging designers showing on the schedule this year, the desire to stand out was strong. There were plenty of great examples to choose from, from Jordan Dalah’s pillowy silhouettes, to Yousef Akbar’s chain-trimmed glamour, or Mariam Seddiq’s acid-hued couture.

The upcycled patchwork pieces from Iordanes Spyrinos Gogos brought a sense of naive delight that belied the handiwork involved.

There was a quiet confidence, too, among other newcomers, such as Replica Project’s austere minimalism, or Aaizel’s diagonally spliced jersey dresses and tailoring.

For those with a reason to celebrate, they took the opportunity and ran with it. For Alice McCall, coming out of voluntary administration meant a return to the catwalk and the party pieces she is best known for, in joyfully lurid 60s-inspired florals and patchworked metallic leather trouser pairings.

Rebecca Vallance’s 10-year ­anniversary brought bottom-­hugging sequinned minidresses and feather-trimmed tuxedo dresses. There was also a new-found ­confidence for and about the Indigenous fashion sector, which has gained long-overdue traction this past year.

For the first time in the event’s 25 years, an official Welcome to Country opened the week. To see it play out in all its spiritual splendour – and including a small fashion ­finale – many questioned why it had never happened before.

Two group shows were held during the week, featuring the work of 13 designers through the First Nations Fashion and Design platform and the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair’s Indigenous Fashion Projects. The amount of work done by each group was apparent with the collections on the runway, all of which were ready for market, whether the bold hues of Native Swimwear, the urban streetwear of Aarli, the 80s take on Indigenous prints from Nungala Creative, the sophisticated ready-to-wear of Maara Collective or the playful ­silhouettes of Grace Lillian Lee.

Given the cultural shift of the past year, including the Black Lives Matter movement – and discussions around diversity and inclusivity in all areas – it was almost a non-issue at this year’s fashion week. The model net was cast wide, in terms of ethnicity, size, gender and, to a lesser degree, age.

The final consumer show for the week included a number of Paralympians in the mix. It was a welcomed gesture, but one that also showed how much further there is to go. In the closing segment of the group show, disability advocate Lisa Cox’s wheelchair got caught on the shredded paper strewn ankle-deep all over the catwalk.

While designer Camilla Franks leapt from her front-row seat to help her back down the runway, it was a reminder that if you want to include all abilities in this space, you have to factor in the needs of all.

The take-up by customers of the evening consumer shows proved that there is, finally, an appetite for these events in Sydney. While the city had its own consumer-facing fashion festival for a number of years, also run by AFW owners IMG, it never gained the traction of the Melbourne Fashion Festival and was abandoned after 2015.

This year, all five consumer shows at AFW sold out, with more than 2000 consumers attending.

With the global conversation around the relevance of “see now, buy now” shows once again gaining traction, where the clothing on the catwalk is available to purchase ­immediately rather than in six months’ time, this experiment will surely add fuel to the fire about the event’s future. And with Afterpay now the naming sponsor of the event – as well as those in London and New York – it’s not hard to imagine that these traditionally industry-only events will cater more and more to the ultimate part of the fashion puzzle … the consumer.

Romance Was Born straddled the two worlds, with an industry showcase immediately preceding a ticketed event. The typically spectacular show brought together Sydney’s best creatives to showcase their intricate one-off designs in epic scale.

Conversely, the rise and rise of Christopher Esber was showcased in an intimate show on the final night of the week. In a custom-built Zen garden, Esber’s considered craftsmanship showed exactly why he has weathered the past year so well, picking up another six of the world’s best retailers even after the pandemic began. And this, 10 years into his business. If his cut-out sheaths and crystal-trimmed gowns have gained him a strong celebrity following, his knitted skirts and dresses and tie-detailed tailoring bring a more grounded offering to the rest of us.

This was a masterful collection from Esber that stood out not only for its vision and execution but also, yes, its confidence.

Top Five Trends

Relaxed tailoring

Australian consumers are clearly responding to a return to tailoring post-pandemic, because suits were ubiquitous throughout Australian Fashion Week. But they’re less corner office and more drinks by the pool. Think silks, jersey, linens and cotton, a little oversized or languid. If you tie a cord belt over your blazer, even better. Seen at Daniel Avakian, Anna Quan, Shona Joy, Commas, Maggie Marilyn, Beare Park, Christopher Esber, Rumer, St Agni and Maara Collective.

Sheath dresses

Young Australian consumers have long been fans of the form-fitting silhouette – and this season, designers continue to feed the beast. Often with cut-outs, criss-crossing straps or ruching details, in silk or jersey, there’s an ease to the dresses this time around, lightly skimming the body to the ankle. Christopher Esber offered the most elevated versions, but you’ll also find them from Shona Joy, Rumer, Alice McCall, St Agni, Auteur and Maara Collective.


According to Newton’s Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This season, for every form-fitting sheath dress there was an oversized, voluminous dress that seemingly engulfed the wearer. From Jordan Dalah’s plump and pillowy proportions to Yousef Akbar’s tent-like taffeta gowns, there were also sleeves, skirts and frocks amped up to 11 from Romance Was Born, Rebecca Vallance, Ginger & Smart, Mariam Seddiq and Bondi Born.


Back to pilates for all of us – midriffs were on full show this season. Whether swaths of flesh from cut-out dresses, a slash of flesh between top and skirt or a mere glimpse of solar plexus in a keyhole gap, torsos are targeted this season. See examples from Anna Quan, Ginger & Smart, Rumer and Bondi Born.

Dresses over trousers

How very resort – loose dresses and tunics worn over equally relaxed trousers. Bondi Born’s button-front dress in shocking pink over matching pants was a stellar incarnation; variations were seen at Beare Park, Sown In Time, Albus Lumen, Bassike and even Jordan Dalah.

7 Jun, 2021
Wesfarmers CEO proves his worth
Financial Review

After just three-and-a-half years as chief executive of Wesfarmers, it is fair to say Rob Scott has earned the right to be ranked among the best businessmen in Australia over the past decade.

The Wesfarmers investor day on Thursday only served to reaffirm that Scott is in a commanding position to make his next big strategic move thanks to the strongest balance sheet of the top 50 listed companies.

Also, the suite of Wesfarmers’ businesses is performing well despite short-term volatility in trading following the pandemic-induced boom in sales at Bunnings, Kmart and Officeworks.

Wesfarmers is sitting on about $1 billion in surplus cash after the pandemic demand spike boosted divisional cash flow to record levels. Recent volatility in trading is likely to be a short-term issue despite the sharemarket’s negative reaction.

The company is well positioned to either undertake capital management or use its balance sheet strength to expand in areas adjacent to its business, such as activities associated with electric vehicles.

Scott could well be one of the first leading CEOs to pick up the baton from government and undertake a large private sector, post-COVID-19 capital investment to create jobs and growth.

His oversight of the conglomerate has delivered some very impressive performance numbers. But more on that later.

When he took over in 2017, Wesfarmers had about $4 billion in net debt and its shares had been lacklustre performers for about four years.

The stock was trading around $30 and fund managers were complaining about the lack of earnings growth and low return on equity. There was pressure from some quarters for Scott to spin off the Bunnings hardware chain.

Immediately upon taking over from Richard Goyder, Scott signalled that he would be his own man. He shut down the Bunnings operation in Britain and then turned his attention to problem assets such as Target.

He avoided copying his two predecessors, who made large-scale, company- transformative transactions, such as the $19.3 billion takeover of Coles in 2007.

Instead, Scott focused on smaller-scale deals such as Kidman Resources, Catch and Geeks2U. He learnt a few lessons from the failed bid for rare earths group Lynas Corp.

It would appear Scott realised private equity and other financial buyers were in a better position to buy assets in a world of low interest rates.

In a sense, Scott became the anti-deal maker as he spun off Coles and shrunk Target.

Cashing in on Coles

The Coles transaction has been a favourable one for Wesfarmers shareholders. It listed around $12.75 a share and is now trading at $16.76, or 31.5 per cent higher.

Over the same period, Wesfarmers shares have risen about 62 per cent to close at $55.11 on Thursday. The stock hit a record high of $56.28 during intra-day trading.

Wesfarmers has distributed about $14.2 billion to shareholders since 2016 and invested $2.8 billion in growth capital expenditure.

At the investor day, which was broadcast from a hotel in Sydney, Scott revealed Wesfarmers would be stepping up its investment in what he called the “data and digital ecosystem”.

Scott’s performance has probably put paid to the nagging criticism that conglomerates cannot deliver the sort of growth found in pure-play companies.

Wesfarmers would spend $100 million on the company’s “data and digital ecosystem” on top of the $200 million in business-as-usual investment in tech.

The company’s tech credentials are impressive. It has established an Advanced Analytics Centre which employs 400 data, digital and analytics specialists.

It has a group data platform that allows customer data insights to be shared across divisions.

Wesfarmers has about 100 million digital interactions with customers each month and is ranked among the top two non-food e-commerce retailers in Australia with online sales of $2 billion in the first half of this financial year.

It was demand for its products online that helped drive divisional cash flow generation in 2020 to about 130 per cent, up from the five-year average of 103 per cent between 2015 and 2019.

Prepared for the worst

Chief financial officer Anthony Gianotti said the company went into the COVID-19 pandemic with a conservative balance sheet and was prepared for the worst.

He issued the usual warning that a strong balance sheet was not a signal that Wesfarmers was about to undertake an acquisition.

But it was natural that analysts would ask when the company would start recycling its capital through a buyback.

Scott made it clear that he does not feel any pressure to make acquisitions. He reminded analysts that the company had been disciplined, and would remain so.

Wesfarmers has its own team of M&A experts headed by former private equity guru Ed Bostock. The team is less susceptible to the siren sounds of investment bankers.

Scott is unlikely to do a repeat of his predecessor, whose $19.3 billion takeover of Coles took many years to become value accretive.

But the question remains as to how he will utilise what is arguably one of the strongest balance sheets among Australia’s top 50 companies.

The Coles deal crunched down the company’s return on equity and it is only in recent years that it has returned to the 20 per cent mark.

Scott’s performance over the past three years has probably put paid to the nagging criticism that conglomerates cannot deliver the sort of growth found in pure-play companies.

But COVID-19 was a reminder that when the conditions are right, just about every division in the Wesfarmers group can fire on all cylinders.


7 Jun, 2021
Global Fashion Group worldwide operations hit carbon neutrality
Inside Retail

Global Fashion Group has achieved carbon neutrality across its operations in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the CIS.

The group now uses 100 per cent renewable energy across its nine fulfilment centres across the globe, used by subsidiary businesses such as The Iconic and Zalora, while offsetting any carbon generated by purchasing high quality carbon credits from renewable energy projects across China, India and Brazil.

Australia’s The Iconic led the way in getting the business off the grid, shifting its own operations to a renewable energy provider in 2020, while fulfilment centres in other parts of the world purchased Renewable Energy Certificates to offset their own operations.

“We’re incredible proud to have achieved this sustainability milestone as a global group and consequently be the first major ANZ multi-brand fashion, sports and lifestyle retailer to claim carbon neutrality in our own operations,” said The Iconic chief executive Erica Berchtold.

“Being a responsible corporate citizen is integral to who we are and to be part of a group equally committed to pioneering environment progress adds significant impact to achieving a more sustainable future for not only The Iconic, but our broader ANZ retail ecosystem.”

GFG’s chief sustainability officer Jaana Quaintance-James said the announcement is the business’ way of celebrating World Environment Day, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday 5 June.

“We have reached an inflection point as a global community whereby the impetus for the transition to a low carbon economy is undeniable,” Quaintance-James said.

“We recognise there is much work ahead of us to reduce our footprint and therefore formalising our carbon mitigation strategy is an important step to support our transition. While the purchase of offsets and renewable energy certificates will not distract us from true reduction efforts, they mark an important milestone in GFG’s journey.”

Zalora chief executive Gunjan Soni said the business is proud to be a sustainable leader in Southeast Asia, and that this announcement sets a precedent to what is possible and responsible for businesses.

“We are so proud to be a part of a group that recognises the importance of our role in helping to fight the climate crisis together,” Soni said.

“As the leading fashion and lifestyle e-commerce player that serves millions of shoppers across Southeast Asia, we recognise the importance of shaping a sustainable fashion ecosystem in the region.”

7 Jun, 2021
Michael Hill appoints new chair as Emma Hill retires
Inside Retail

The chair of Michael Hill International, Emma Hill, is to step down at the end of the financial year on June 28. 

Rob Fyfe, former CEO of Air New Zealand, will succeed Hill, who will remain as non-executive director, along with her father Sir Michael. Hill has held the director position at Michael Hill since 2007. She was then appointed as the company’s chair in 2015. 

“Rob is an outstanding strategic and transformative leader with a track record of maximising shareholder value,” said Hill. “The time is right for this transition. The company has never been in a healthier position.”

Fyfe was also CEO and subsequently chairman of Icebreaker and has sat on the Michael Hill board for more than seven years. He was recently appointed as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his leadership and services to business.

“It is an honour and privilege to take on the role as chair of Michael Hill International and to build on the heritage that Sir Michael and Emma as chairs, and the entire Hill family, have contributed over the last four decades,” Fyfe said.  

Meanwhile, CEO of Micheal Hill, Daniel Bracken, will join the board as MD. 

4 Jun, 2021
Homewares supplier offers staff Myer vouchers to get jabbed
Australian Financial Review

Melbourne-based homewares supplier HAG Import is one of the first Australian companies to reward staff for getting the COVID-19 jab.

Owner and chief executive Max Grundmann said the company, which is a major supplier to Myer, would reward staff with $100 Myer gift vouchers as soon as they provided proof they had received two vaccine shots.

HAG, which owns the Maxwell & Williams and Casa Domani tableware brands and distributes Krosno glassware and KitchenAid tools and accessories, has about 90 staff in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

If all employees took up the offer the initiative would cost the company about $9000, but Mr Grundmann said it was a small price to pay to keep staff and customers safe and to reduce the threat of further debilitating lockdowns.

“I see it more as a great investment – it’s an investment not only in my staff but in Australia and Victoria,” Mr Grundmann said.

“If we can find a way of encouraging others to do that we could be in a much safer place.”

Mr Grundmann’s move comes as the federal government considers a range of incentives, including lotteries and discounts, to encourage Australians to get the jab.

Frequent flyer points

Qantas is also looking at options to boost vaccine uptake to get borders reopened permanently, including giving people who get both their COVID-19 jabs up to 1000 frequent flyer points, flight vouchers and status credits.

A poll last month suggested 30 per cent of Australians would shun the jab, with 15 per cent of adults surveyed reporting they were “not at all likely” to be vaccinated. Another 14 per cent reported being “not very likely” to do so.

HAG is one of thousands of Melbourne-based businesses struggling through its fourth lockdown in 15 months.

While its warehouse continues to operate, showroom and head office staff are working from home and most of its retail customers in Victoria, including Myer, David Jones and Harris Scarfe, have been forced to temporarily close their doors.

“We ought to be encouraging people to get vaccinated for the safety of all of us. Giving a benefit to the staff to do that is in everyone’s best interests,” Mr Grundmann said.

“If you look at the cost of lockdowns, for companies who can offer an incentive in a way which would give their staff and their customers and the rest of Australia this sort of benefit, I think it is something everyone who can afford it should do.”

4 Jun, 2021
Bonds Australia launches new genderless clothing line to ensure ‘comfort for all
The Australian

Iconic Australian clothing brand Bonds has released a “genderless” clothing line, tying in with international pride month, claiming “we can’t be truly comfy until everyone is”.

The new collection of jumpers, T-shirts, hoodies and tracksuit pants is available in neutral tones and a “genderless” size fit, as part of the Explorer outdoor range.

“As a brand for all Australians, we think it’s important to make everyone feel comfortable – and that starts with the first thing you put on in the morning,” Bonds said in a statement.

“We offer an assortment of genderless apparel options across our range so our customers can wear it their way.

“We recognise that the future is ‘genderful’ and want to allow our customers to express their gender and identity in whichever way is most comfortable.”

Each item has a “relaxed fit” and can be worn by anyone, whether they identify as male, female, or non-binary.

“At the heart of everything we do is you,” Bonds said.

“No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you stand for, we believe everyone deserves to be comfy.”

The genderless pullovers and hoodies are on sale for $49, down from $80.

The company has also shared information across its social media on how to support LGBTQIA+ this pride month. They are offering customers the option to donate $2 from any purchase to Minus18, a charity organisation that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of, and provide a safe environment for, same-sex attracted and gender-diverse youth

4 Jun, 2021
‘Not the sexiest brand’: Veteran designer’s runway debut
Australian Financial Review

After 30 years designing for some of Australia’s best-known women’s brands, Sophie Holt added a career first on Tuesday – her first runway show.

“We are at a great place with the brand, and we are moving into a new phase of international growth,” said Ms Holt, the creative director for Will Vicars’ Oroton, ahead of the show.

“This is our third season of international wholesale distribution, which is where we see the future so it’s imperative we do Fashion Week. Little did I realise what a learning curve it would be.”

Though international buyers are not physically present this year, IMG, which runs Australian Fashion Week, is hosting a live-streaming service so that buyers can tune in and make orders. It is a crucial part of many Australian brands’ businesses.

“I’m such a perfectionist so it’s been quite a journey,” said Ms Holt. “It’s more than simply the collection, which was ready because of that international wholesale order. It’s the location, the concept, the music, the setting.”

Ms Holt, aware that Oroton is yet to fully shed its former reputation as corporate and somewhat staid, was candid in her hopes for the show: “I worry that Oroton is not the edgiest, sexiest brand, which is what is normally on display at Fashion Week.

“I’ve given it my best shot but who knows what it will look like? It’s clothes women can wear every day. Is that good enough for Fashion Week? I don’t know.”

It was an assured debut on the runway, keenly tuning into the resort theme that Australian Fashion Week is known for, with a sense that an adult was firmly in the room. Utility and minimalism were the order of the day, capturing a relaxed, languid vision of the Australian summer while somehow elevating it, too.

Watching was owner Will Vicars, nodding to the surf-soaked soundtrack, Young Rich Lister Zoe Foster Blake and Ms Holt’s sister, kaftan designer Pippa Holt.

Mr Vicars, a former board member of Oroton when it was a listed company, bought the accessories brand in 2017 for $25 million after it was placed in voluntary administration.

For a long time, the adjective most associated with the brand was “embattled” – after losing lucrative licensing deals with Polo Ralph Lauren and Gap, the business wrote a loss of $14 million in 2017 – but Mr Vicars turned the tide by appointing former Country Road creative director Ms Holt as head of design. She has focused on reinvigorating the accessories side of the brand and introducing ready-to-wear.

Day two began with Commas, staging its first-ever show on chilly Tamarama Beach. Ginger & Smart, a veteran brand, opened proceedings at Carriageworks with a show that focused on romance and femininity. In a pastel palette of pistachio, blush, peach and lemon, sisters Alexandra and Genevieve Smart showed a collection flush with draping, ruffles and voluminous layers at the newly minted Carla Zampatti Gallery. Guests included City of Sydney councillor Jess Miller and Grace and Sophia Forrest.

Elsewhere, Maggie Marilyn, from New Zealand designer Maggie Hewitt, debuted a film of her new, sustainably minded collection at Centennial Homestead. The film, shot on location at Emma Lane’s The Range in Byron Bay, was “a love letter to Australia”, said Ms Hewitt to a room packed with models and influencers wearing her dreamy cotton smocks.

Wearable, shoppable fashion – a nod to Fashion Week’s new sponsor Afterpay, no doubt – was the order of the day all around. “It’s all about colour and print and charm and sweetness,” said Ms Holt. “That’s not cool or edgy, but it’s us and that’s what we do.

“It’s real clothes. Hopefully that’s enough.”

4 Jun, 2021
Blundstone’s CEOs on how the brand went from making footwear for WWI soldiers to the modern heeled boot
Business Insider

For the past 150 years, Blundstone has been a brand synonymous with good quality boots. The Hobart-born brand has seen an impressive evolution, from providing boots to soldiers during World Wars I and II, to being the official thermal boot of the Australian Olympians at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. More recently, Blundstone’s switched the focus to a brand new style: the heeled boot.

Blundstone’s Joint CEOs, Adam Blake and Darryl Wilkes, explained that heeled boots for women aren’t a new range for the brand (in fact, some of the first-ever designs were for heeled styles). But driven by their growth into fashion-led markets like Milan, New York and Seoul, they’re focusing more energy on this area. “In the last decade we’ve seen, or finally recognised, a huge uptake in women buying our boots,” they said. “So, we knew that a women’s-specific series was an untapped segment for us.”

Their current range maintains the quality, craftsmanship and comfort the brand has always been famous for. “Our range is ever-evolving, and we see it as imperative that we don’t lose that Blundstone DNA that we are known for,” the co-CEOs said. “We built our women’s heeled boots on the same principles.”

We sat down with Blake and Wilkes to find out more about the brand’s evolution and exactly how it has pivoted so successfully to maintain a market share since its inception 150 years ago. A huge part of the brand’s success, they said, is that it resonates with a broad demographic of consumers, from eight to eighty-year-olds, construction workers to festival-goers, and musicians, too. Keep on reading to hear more.

How would you describe the feel of a Blundstone to someone who hasn’t worn them before?

Adam Blake: Simplicity and comfort. We are the original and iconic easy on, easy off elastic side design. And we produce boots you can wear all day and be comfortable in. Our patterns and designs are backed by decades of research to ensure we’re always using the best materials, technology and design practices to provide the best products we can.

The fit of our products is key to our DNA—we’ve had 151 years of consumer feedback to draw on. People often comment that Blundstones mould to the shape of their foot, delivering a personalised fit. And that’s what it’s all about—making the boot work for you.

What has been the reaction to the Blundstone heeled boot, so far?

Darryl Wilkes: It’s been phenomenal. As soon as we launched them they sold out, and in their first year, we sold three times as many pairs as we’d forecasted. Now that we’ve leant back into designing women’s styled footwear, we realise there’s an onus on us to keep refreshing and extending the collection for our consumers; new colours, heel heights and styles join our range every season.

How has the business model for Blundstone shifted over the years (more recently as well as since its inception)?

AB: Throughout this change, we’ve always kept our heritage front of mind. Our vision remains focused — first and foremost we’re a footwear brand and we don’t see that changing any time soon. We’ve been making fit for purpose footwear for 151 years and we believe we’re still only just scratching the surface of the potential.

The transition has been fuelled by our strategy of putting our customers, consumers, and wearers at the centre of our thinking. This extends to every element of our operations — design, materials innovation and sourcing, manufacturing, sales, and marketing.

As a globally distributed brand in over 70 countries, our primary goal is to continue to stay relevant to the people who wear and love our products. We’ve had extraordinary growth in the last 20 years and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so we must be doing something right.

Has the design of the boot evolved much or has it predominantly been minor tweaks here and there?

DW: The old adage of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” is one you could certainly apply to our brand. Our iconic #500 has been a key part of our range for more than 50 years, albeit with updated comfort technology. We’re the opposite of fast fashion. The manufacturing and design techniques we employ mean that our boots are perennial staples. Our boots are considered and timeless in their style, and durability is our cornerstone. And while we do continue to develop our range to meet the demands of our wearers, we never stray too far from our DNA.

Even though we’re 151 years old, in many of our global markets, we’re still a discovery brand. We are happy for that “underground” element to remain a part of our brand identity.

What is Blundstone setting its sights on in the next few years?

AB: We’ll be continuing to open up new markets and regions to continue to grow the brand.
Growing our product sets means opening up new categories and providing consumers in all segments of the market the best boots we can. This applies to both lifestyle and work products. We see our work and safety range as an important anchor for the brand. The design, research and technology we leverage for safety products is filtered into our lifestyle range so that every boot we make is fit for purpose, comfortable and durable.

As the current custodians of Blundstone, we’re conscious to ensure that our growth is sustainable for the long term and leverages the capabilities and innovation of our team and value chain partners. We have a responsibility to protect and enhance the legacy of the brand and the business for the next generation. This means doing the right thing by people, products and the planet. Not only meeting consumer demands for products but for ethical and sustainable business practices. This is something we’ve been working toward for a while and we’ve begun to share more about our efforts in this area on our digital platforms as we know transparency is increasingly important to our consumers.

How do you decide on the material being sourced? Are you conscious of environmental impacts?

DW: As a brand built on quality and craftsmanship, the materials we use are pivotal to our product offering. We only work with suppliers that can demonstrate their commitment to quality, minimising environmental impact, practices and ethical supply chain, and people management.

Corporate social responsibility, or as we call it simply “doing the right thing”, is built into every element of our business and value chain — from our suppliers to our distributors — because we recognise the significance of it to the longevity of our brand.

As an iconic business and brand, Blundstone has always sought to be an active, positive and contributing member of our communities. It’s important to our people both internally and our wearers so it’s important to us. Every day, we strive to make every step better than our last.

31 May, 2021
Ryan Gracie departs Catch to join MyDeal as CMO

Online home and lifestyle marketplace MyDeal has appointed Ryan Gracie as its new CMO. 

Gracie joins MyDeal after serving five years at fellow eTailer Catch, where he led key marketing campaigns including the creation of its biggest campaign to date, 'Checkout Catch/Everyday Aussies.'

Gracie brings a total of 20 years of marketing experience to MyDeal which includes roles at Australian toy business Funtastic and JB Hi-Fi. 

He is highly regarded in the retail industry, having been recognised multiple times in Ragtrader's annual Marketing 15 and Tech 20 lists. 

Speaking on his appointment, Gracie said he will elevate four key metrics to help grow the business. 

"I’m eager to join such a high calibre team at a pivotal moment in MyDeal’s growth journey. 

"Underpinned by a formidable proprietary platform, I see tremendous opportunity to significantly grow the company in the near term through an enhanced customer value proposition, sophisticated marketing, merchandising and sustained brand growth," he said. 

Gracie joins the business as it experiences significant growth, having just launched iOS and Android apps to better service its 883,397 active customers (up 157% year on year (yoy)). 

In its third quarter trading update, MyDeal reported that Q3 FY21 gross sales increased 104.5% yoy to $44.7 million, while year-to-date sales were up 177.4% to $171.4 million. 

MyDeal CEO Sean Senvirtne added that Gracie will support the business' continued growth. 

"Ryan is a strategic addition to MyDeal’s leadership team as we prepare for the next stage of growth and harness the capability we have built into our proprietary platform.

"MyDeal has had a solid start to 2021 reporting strong results across all key metrics. 

"We are pleased to advise this growth has continued in the months of April and May, with gross sales up on the prior corresponding period, despite last year’s figures being assisted by COVID-19 lockdowns.

"With the local online home and lifestyle market now worth more than $6 billion annually, MyDeal is even better positioned to increase our market share and deliver on our vision of being Australia’s leading online marketplace for home and lifestyle products. 

"[Ryan] will play a key role in growing our business by ensuring even more Australians are shopping for home and lifestyle products at the lowest prices through MyDeal," he said. 

Gracie began his employment at MyDeal today, May 24 2021. 

31 May, 2021
Shopping centre owner Mirvac targets online retailers
Financial Review

Property giant Mirvac has taken an equity stake in a fashion tech start-up and is offering flexible rents and short leases to lure online retailers into its shopping centres.

As part of a strategy to embrace ‘new retail’, Mirvac has developed two new formats, dubbed WeShow and Glasshouse, which enable pure-play and omni-channel retailers to set up shop in shopping centres on a short term basis and expose their brands to new audiences.

The strategy is aimed at refreshing the mix in Mirvac’s shopping malls, responding to changing consumer shopping habits, and providing ‘retail as a service’ – removing barriers to entry to bricks and mortar stores and offering flexible solutions for online retailers.

Mirvac Ventures has also acquired a small equity stake in social commerce start-up Mys Tyler as part of a $1 million seed funding round. Mys Tyler is an online site which uses algorithms and customer data to match shoppers with a team of contributors who help them shop for their shape, size and style, recommending clothes from many existing tenants in Mirvac malls.

Mirvac’s general manager retail, Kelly Miller, said the new strategy was not about filling empty spaces in shopping centres, and Mirvac had no plans to emulate US property giant Simon Property Group by buying up struggling retail brands.

“Prior to COVID we had been working on a strategy where we planned to embrace all forms of retail whether bricks and mortar, omni-channel operators or pure play operators ... to respond to different audience needs,” Ms Miller told The Australian Financial Review.

“COVID fast-tracked all of that very rapidly – we had the opportunity to start to co-create with a number of people,” Ms Miller said.

“This is about new retail creating new opportunities for new revenue streams.”

For example, online fashion retailer Billy J took a three-year lease on a store in Mirvac’s Kawana mall in Queensland after testing a temporary pop-up store. Sales rose almost 30 per cent in the first six months as it reached new customers.

Online accessories retailer Hills & West opened a temporary store under Mirvac’s “WeShow” concept in East Village shopping centre in Sydney. The pop-up store exposed the brand to more than 13,000 new customers and sales, in the three months ending February, rose 300 per cent.

“The opportunity with WeShow is to constantly bring in new talent so they can trial new audiences and grow their business,” Ms Miller said.

Online retailers do not have the resources or expertise to set up stores and negotiate leases, so Mirvac has established modular store fit-outs complete with lighting, floors, adjustable shelving and point of sale systems.

Lease terms are flexible and rents are agreed on a case-by-case basis, based on a share of store revenues or a pure rent model.

“Our job is to make that transition into bricks and mortar as seamless as possible for them so we set them up for success, we grow their business and ultimately it will create a long-term partnership for us and them,” Ms Miller said.

Mirvac is also testing “glasshouse” style temporary kiosks and has established “WeMake” spaces in malls, a community initiative where shoppers learn skills such as candlemaking, cheese making and craft. Mirvac takes a share of ticket sales.

Ms Miller said 70 per cent of Mirvac’s shopping centres were in urban locations – including Broadway, Tramsheds, East Village and Greenwood Plaza in Sydney, Kawana and Toombul in Queensland and Moonee Ponds in Melbourne – and had capacity for WeShow pop-ups and WeMake spaces.

31 May, 2021
Former City Beach exec Jay Baikie joins Knobby as first-ever head of marketing

Australian underwear subscription brand Knobby has unveiled a new brand direction and identity as it appoints as its first head of marketing. 

Former City Beach, Goodlife Health Club, Uppercut Deluxe and Penny Skateboards executive Jay Baikie has taken the helm as the brand's first-ever head of marketing, overseeing the growing team of specialists across digital marketing and eCommerce. 

Baikie's appointment comes as the brand unveils a new brand identity and direction, designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and to reflect the brand's renewed focus on freedom, culture and creativity. 

Knobby founder and CEO Rob Rand said that the new look was part of a broader strategy. 

"2021 is set to be one of the biggest years for us. 

"We’ve rolled out this new brand identity, we’re bringing to market awesome campaigns, most recently a collaboration with the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors that was very successful and we’re getting ready to announce a few big partnerships. 

"We are well and truly on our way to cementing our position as one of Australia’s leading eCommerce brands," he said. 

The new logo is visually inspired by the 70s aesthetic and uses colours inspired by natural Australian icons like the pink from Lake Hillier and the blue surf of Mooloolaba. 

The brand will maintain its Aussie-larrikin approach and will build on its culture with customers, Rand added. 

"Throughout the entire journey of creating our new brand identity we were focused on making sure everyone sees us as a mate and we’re eager to share our culture with them, we are more than just awesome undies. 

"For a very young brand we’ve done a lot of growing which has been influenced by a number of factors including an increased demand from our members, keeping pace with never-ending changes in the eCommerce space, but most importantly we have become more confident in ourselves," he said. 

Knobby is based on the Sunshine Coast and has underwear subscribers in Australia, Europe, the US and Asia. 

31 May, 2021
Street cred propels Culture Kings onto Rich List
Financial Review

It’s a retail outfit employing DJs and selling sneakers, baseball caps and T-shirts attracting such a strong following that its young founders, Simon and Tah-nee Beard, have landed themselves on the Financial Review Rich List with an estimated net wealth of $626 million.

And it was all built straight out of high school, where Mr Beard, now 37, started selling clothing at the weekend Carrara markets on the Gold Coast before he and Tah-nee built an eBay business importing and reselling goods from the US.

They opened their first retail outlet in 2008, cutting a sharp deal with a landlord and fitting it out with help from their friends who bought supplies at Bunnings.

“While I was working at the markets I was purchasing for myself streetwear,” Mr Beard said.

“I was buying it in America and I saw this gap. There were these Dickie’s shorts and they were selling for $100 at [surfwear retailer] City Beach. I could buy them at Walmart for about $10. So I got a friend to buy me boxes.

“I just thought how can they sell them for $100? And back then the dollar was parity. I sent my friend back every week [to Walmart]. I started selling supplies on eBay.”

Now, Culture Kings employs about 700 people, turns over $183.7 million and threw off a $19.4 million net profit last financial year. It is now embarking on a US expansion after a partial sale of the business to a.k.a Brands, an arm of US private equity group Summit Partners.

Mr Beard won’t discuss the terms of the deal, announced on March 31, but revealed by Street Talk in February.

“As one of the most sought after streetwear retailers today, we see significant growth opportunities as we work with Tah-nee and Simon to introduce and expand the Culture Kings experience in existing and new geographies,” a.k.a chief executive Jill Ramsey said at the time.

The deal also delivers some star power, something familiar to Culture Kings, which boasts in-store appearances by celebrity rappers such as Drake and pop musician Justin Bieber.

Young Rich Lister and NBA star Ben Simmons invested in a.k.a as part of its Culture Kings acquisition.

“We have done in-stores with him and he’s just so ahead of the curve,” Mr Beard said of his new backer. “He invested in e-sports, he invested really early and is just so ahead of the curve. He’s savvy and he’s a bit of a style icon too.”

A profitable union

But in many ways, the Beard’s success almost came about by accident.

It was when Tah-nee found herself out of her job at a car dealership as the global financial crisis battered the economy, that she wound up helping to sell products.

At the time Mr Beard was selling “Schoolies Slippers” (hotel slippers with stitching reading Gold Coast Schoolies Week) at a pop-up store.

“She came to help me with the Schoolies Slippers and she made it a proper business,” Mr Beard tells The Australian Financial Review. ”From there we just started crushing it.”

It’s been a profitable union.

“I’m good at big ideas. She’s good at the operational side. I love a punt and she’s the one pushing back on my ideas.”

Ms Beard, 32, is one of a record number of women to join this year’s Rich List, which is published in AFR Magazine on Friday. And the couple, who splashed out on an $11.75 million Surfers Paradise trophy home last year, join 20 new entrants on this year’s list.

Their success didn’t come without risk and a good hustle.

Mr Beard remembers watching “kids peel around the corner” from a block of retail outlets as they headed to Gold Coast shopping centre Australia Fair.

“I thought if we had that [empty] store we would crush it. I pestered the landlord and eventually got a lease with no down payment,” he said of the store they opened in 2008.

“My mates came and helped me fit out the store using stuff from Bunnings.”

And then there was, what felt like at the time, the extraordinary sum, $30,000, Mr Beard said he needed to secure the rights of a Miami sneaker group that had gone bust. It traded as Culture Kings. He wanted the brand name (and the domain address).

“It was $30,000 and it was so much money but I really wanted it,” he said.

Now they’re working on a US expansion, with the help of a.k.a. The couple, who to date funded the business on cash earnings, initially began seeking out a US partner to help their growth plans. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“I went into survival mode,” Mr Beard said. “But as we stuck our head down the majority of the business was online and it sped up the evolution of what was always going to happen.

“We grabbed more market share. We did more revenue than we ever have. And then the stores have come back stronger than ever. They are smoking it compared to 2019.”

The Financial Review Rich List for 2021 is published in AFR Magazine out Friday.

20 May, 2021
Smorgons ask suitors to try General Pants Co on for size
Financial Review

The Smorgon family is mulling options for its Australian fashion retailer General Pants Co, calling in advisers to pitch it to potential new owners.

Street Talk understands General Pants Co’s board, headed by shareholders and Smorgon family members Philip Staub and Peter Edwards, has hired Monash Advisory to test the appetite of rival retailers and private equity firms with experience in the sector.

Sources said Monash had already started approaching potential buyers and was keen to drum up interest to kickstart an auction. Formal documents are yet to be sent to interested parties, sources said.

Should there be an exit for the Smorgons, it would end the family’s long association with General Pants Co. Family patriarch Victor Smorgon stitched up a deal to acquire the business with his granddaughter Jackie Vidor and her husband, Staub, in 1995.

General Pants Co, which for a time also owned Surf Dive & Ski and Jetty Surf, has worked hard to stay in fashion ever since. It is understood the fashion chain’s store numbers peaked at nearly 60 a decade ago, but rationalisation plans have since seen the number drop to closer to 40.

20 May, 2021
Best & Less to go public as Australia’s crowded discount sector heats up
Inside Retail

Australian discount department store business Best & Less plans to raise about $72.3 million through an initial public offering at $2.15 a share, according to a term sheet that was sent to potential investors this week.

The retailer aims to list on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in mid-June with a market capitalisation of $271.2 million, or four times its pro forma forecast EBITDA for the 2021 calendar year. 

The IPO caps off a strong period of growth for Best & Less, which operates 246 bricks-and-mortar stores across the Best & Less and Postie chains in Australia and New Zealand, respectively. 

Total sales revenue in the 12 months ended 30 November 2020 was $629 million, with like-for-like sales up 13.5 per cent and online sales rising 80 per cent to $57 million, or 9.1 per cent of total sales. 

Best & Less CEO Rodney Orrock attributed the growth to the business’ focus on value, which gained relevance amidst the economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

“While the business was experiencing strong sales before the pandemic, it has provided a strong tailwind as customers increasingly focused on value,” he said in a statement released at the end of 2020, adding that “consumer demand for our proposition of ‘twice the quality at half the price’ is here to stay.”

Best & Less is forecasting a 6 per cent increase in revenue this year to $676 million, despite some forced store closures due to Covid-19. 

Crowded and competitive sector

The majority of Best & Less’ revenue comes from its baby and kids’ categories, which gives it an important point of difference in the crowded and competitive discount department store sector, according to Australian retail expert Gary Mortimer.

“We know that Kmart still appears to be the market leader in relation to sales and profit, but we also can see that Woolworths has really turned around their Big W operation, and of course, we’ve now seen a revitalised Harris Scarfe in the marketplace,” Mortimer, an associate professor of marketing at Queensland University of Technology, told Inside Retail

“It is quite a crowded and competitive market, so I think it’s vitally important for Best & Less and really any of the players to clearly differentiate themselves from the group.”

Compared to Kmart and Big W, which have a bigger focus on homewares and general merchandise, Best & Less has a much stronger apparel offer, particularly in the baby and kids’ categories.  

Pointing to the retailer’s recent TVCs, he noted that a key message for Best & Less is the quality of its products given their price, a potential gap in the market following the decline of Target Australia. 

“It’s really positioning them as ‘best’ and ‘less’,” he said. “So best quality and lowest price.”

Wesfarmers’ Catch a sizable competitor

One area where Best & Less could find it hard to compete is online. Despite the launch of click-and-collect in Best & Less stores nationwide last year, Kmart and Target Australia are further ahead in this space, thanks to their parent company Wesfarmers’ acquisition of the nearly $1 billion e-commerce giant Catch Group. 

“The Wesfarmers discount store group model — Catch and Target and Kmart together — really is a sizable competitor to compete against,” Mortimer said. 

“But in saying that it doesn’t mean you can’t differentiate yourself and carve out a niche part of the marketplace.”

Best & Less stores are generally smaller than the likes of Kmart, Big W and Harris Scarfe, which may give the retailer more opportunities to enter different types of shopping centres. 

Allegro to retain majority stake

Best & Less is owned by private equity firm Allegro Funds, which bought the business from Steinhoff International’s Australasian subsidiary Greenlit Brands in November 2019, along with Harris Scarfe and Debenhams. 

Allegro sold Harris Scarfe to the Spotlight Group in April 2020, and the sole Debenhams in Australia closed in early 2020. 

Allegro will retain 70 per cent of its shares in Best & Less through the IPO.

12 May, 2021
Zara launching beauty range
Inside Retail

Fashion business Zara has today unveiled it will launch its own cosmetics line, which will be available to buy online and in select Zara stores from 12 May.

‘Zara Beauty’ will be available throughout Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, South Korea, Europe, the US, Canada and Mexico online, with more regions to come down the line.

The Zara Beauty range will be available to be shopping instore at 22 stores across the world, including Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre, China’s Wangfujing Avenue and Nanjing East Road stores, Japan’s Musashino Building in Shinjuku, and South Korea’s Kangnam Manseoul building in Seoul.

The offer will include lipsticks, foundations, balms, oils, bronzers, long-lasting nail polish and make up brushes, and will include 130 colours. According to Zara, the initiative aims to cater to each person’s diversity of needs, using the slogan, ‘there is no beauty, only beauties’.

And, as part of Zara’s ongoing commitment to recycling, packaging has been designed for reuse and refill, and makes use of recycled glass.

Parent Company Inditex has previously said that by 2025, 100 per cent of the cotton, linen and polyester used by all eight of its brands will be organic, sustainable or recycled.

6 May, 2021
Mall giant Vicinity says shoppers are staying for longer and spending more
The Age
The Age

Australia’s second-largest retail landlord Vicinity Centres says shoppers are spending more money on each visit to its centres, an early sign of recovery for the nation’s hard-hit shopping malls.

But Vicinity, which owns and manages 60 malls nationwide, said retailers’ confidence is still “fragile” and retail sales for the March quarter were down 7 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

“After a challenging 12 months, we are seeing signs of recovery, with improved centre visitation and retail sales during the quarter. Whilst overall retailer confidence remains fragile, retailers are increasingly committing to new leases versus previous quarters which is encouraging,” chief executive and managing director Grant Kelley said.

Vicinity’s large portfolio includes a half share of Australia’s biggest shopping centre, Chadstone, and Sydney’s prestigious The Strand Arcade.

Mr Kelley said sales across the group’s malls reflected a “subdued but improving retail sales environment.”

While centre visitation is growing, the rate of retail sales improvement was greater.

Consumers are spending more per visit with the average spend increasing 23 per cent in March, a positive lead indicator for continued recovery, he said.

Discount department store sales are up 11.7 per cent, outperforming department store sales which slumped 22.4 per cent over the quarter.

Combined mini-majors and specialty stores reported a 5.7 per cent decline in sales as shoppers’ spending on discretionary goods fell away.

However, total portfolio sales across the group for the March quarter climbed close to pre-COVID levels, down 2.3 per cent relative to the 2019 March period, underpinned by solid supermarket and fresh food sales.

Mr Kelley said a lack of tourists and office workers in CBDs and the risk of further snap lockdowns were weighing on the business.

Most Australian malls stayed open during the pandemic, but shoppers were forced to stay home under lockdown laws, and foot traffic and revenue across the sector plummeted.

The ill-effects were felt most in Vicinity’s Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne CBD centres.

In March, the number of visitors across the group’s portfolio was 77 per cent of pre-COVID levels but, if CBD centres and the group’s poorer performing Victorian malls are excluded, that figure jumps to 91 per cent.

Importantly for the landlord, it collected more gross rental billings (82 per cent) than in previous quarters.

“With improved trading conditions and as Vicinity moves towards completion of outstanding COVID-19 support agreements, particularly with SME retailers, an improvement in cash collections is expected,” the group said.

Shares in the group traded down slightly, to $1.58, the lowest close in two weeks.




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