Aussie entry sparks changes for NZ brand

 

merchant 2New Zealand footwear company, Overland Footwear, operator of Overland and the Australia-only Merchant 1948 retail chains, has begun converting Overland stores to the Merchant name.

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Overland Footwear has a total network of 49 stores in New Zealand, comprised of 35 Overland and 14 Mi Piaci stores. In Australia, Overland Footwear operates seven Merchant 1948 stores and two Mi Piaci stores.

The move to covert Overland to the Merchant banner follows the opening of the largest Merchant 1948 store so far at Melbourne’s Emporium.

Shane Anselmi, MD of Overland Footwear, told Inside Retail PREMIUM he expects all 35 Overland stores in New Zealand to be converted to the new name – Merchant by Overland – over the next four to five years.

The first Overland store opened in New Zealand in 1990. Merchant made its debut in Australia as an Overland store at Melbourne’s Doncaster shopping centre, however, failed to connect with the local consumer under its original name.

“When we decided to take Overland to Australia there was a bit of a disconnect with the name,” Anselmi  said.

“We opened our first Merchant store in Doncaster, Melbourne, and changed the name from Overland to Merchant. All the stores that open in Australia are under the Merchant name.

“In New Zealand, we’re converting stores to the Merchant fitout. We’re trying to push the history of the Merchant 1948 brand, which has a slightly older, more worldly feel about it. It’s about recognising retail of yesteryear.

“We’ve given ourselves a four to five year period, so as leases come up we’ll do our new fitout, the Merchant fitout. In the interim, while we convert stores, we have to be mindful of the new brand.

“We’ve got a very good business [in New Zealand], so the brand is now Overland presents Merchant. At some stage further down the track we’ll take the Overland name in the title away, but for now it’s been kept so people are still familiar with who we are.”

There are plans for more Merchant stores in Australia, but Anselmi could not confirm any new sites.

“We do have plans to open more stores. But for now, in Australia, we’re taking a breather.

“We’re still learning about the local market and we need to do more communication with the brand. We have to look at that before we rollout any more stores, but we certainly will open more.

“We’ve got around 50 stores in New Zealand, so it’s a bit hard to say for the Australian market. Australia’s population is a lot bigger than ours, so we’d like to think we have the potential for a bigger business in Australia at some stage.”

The 208sqm store at Emporium has become the brand’s seventh in Melbourne. There are also two Mi Piaci stores at Melbourne Central and Highpoint Shopping Centre.

Anselmi says there is still more opportunity for the footwear brand in Australia, with Sydney and Brisbane possible future markets.

“We would like to open state by state in Australia, but for now, we think we still have more opportunity in Victoria.”

Overland Footwear will expand premium women’s footwear chain, Mi Piaci in Australia.

“Mi Piaci is very different to Merchant. The price point is probably 30 to 40 per cent higher. At the moment we’re trying to make them work, and once we’re across that we’ll look at rolling more out.”

This story first appeared in Inside Retail PREMIUM issue 1997.

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