Antony Hampson: So far so good! We have a very clear rollout plan for the Australia and New Zealand markets. We have opened four additional concept stores over this period launching in Canberra, The Glen (situated southeast of Melbourne) and Auckland and only last week we opened our doors in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. To support the expansion, we have also needed to improve our outlet offering and acquired additional space in Homebush, refurbished our Birkenhead Point store and will open at Essendon DFO later this month.
As much as store openings can be a hectic period for the business, to date they have gone smoothly. Queenstown was a challenging design, given the shape of the store, but we have been thrilled with the finished layout and execution which certainly makes for a fantastic customer experience in a beautiful location.
IRW: How has the expansion across to New Zealand been? How have New Zealanders responded to the brand?
AH: We have always had a strong wholesale business in New Zealand, so we were confident there was an appetite for the brand. Presenting Superdry in a monobrand environment means that we can not only offer additional product lines and categories, but also ensure we are delivering a total Superdry experience, both of which come with their obvious challenges in a multi-brand environment.
It was important to us that we made this next step into NZ and the response from our customer base there has been fantastic. We opened Auckland in April, in a very prominent standalone location on Queen Street, in the heart of the city, and we are seeing a real mix of customers coming in – from tourists to locals and CBD workers. It is a two-storey site featuring womenswear upstairs and menswear downstairs which seems to work from a customer flow perspective. So, to date, we are very pleased.
Although it is very early days, signs are positive in Queenstown also. Given it’s a strong international tourist destination, we are confident there will be an existing awareness for Superdry – and we are already seeing some excellent KPIs coming out of this store.
IRW: Internationally, how is the brand going around the world at the moment?
AH: We are seeing some very positive signs globally across e-commerce and wholesale channels, however it has been well publicised that the brand has not delivered on its desired results over the past 18 months, which has seen a decline in its share price. However, the brand is in good health globally. We shouldn’t forget that the brand experienced enormous growth in the preceding years and therefore the business is now focused on modernising itself in terms of its infrastructure, working environment and leadership structure to operate in the multi-channel world of retail. There is plenty of opportunity for expansion still with Superdry in many markets, South America being one of them.
Superdry now operates 36 international websites (including third-party websites, covering 15 different languages) and will continue to accelerate their online presence to capture growing consumer demand. In Australia and New Zealand, we are also experiencing significant growth across our digital channels after localising our e-commerce platform in April, allowing us to offer a full omnichannel experience to our customers with more consistent, targeted and impactful messaging.
IRW: There has obviously been some disruption in leadership at Superdry overseas lately, but now that Julian Dunkerton is back, where do you see the brand moving in the future?
AH: There have been some changes at the top with the co-founder of Superdry, Julian Dunkerton, being voted back in as interim CEO. There will be no doubt a much more product-led focus, which is how Superdry initially achieved its enormous success – by being a design-led organisation. He will re-engage the internal creative teams, return to the quality of product for which the brand previously became famous, and we expect to see more innovation, brand-enhanced styles with a greater amount of capsule injections into the range. There will also be a focus on returning to the retail basics, a far stronger understanding of our consumer and ensuring we are designing product that appeals to these various consumer segments while improving agility and speed to market.
IRW: You guys recently used TikTok when you opened the NZ store and the newest Victorian store, The Glen. Tell me about the strategy behind it and why you decided to use the platform.
AH: The justification behind Superdry using TikTok came primarily as a content production and influencer outreach strategy from our marketing team. While the advertising framework is being built, we wanted to create engaging branded video content using new, ‘uncommercialised’ influencers on the TikTok platform.
In addition to this, we are conscious of the changing digital social media landscape and, in turn, the forever evolving hierarchy of social media platforms. We see TikTok as a potential new competitor to the field, particularly for Generation Z.
As such, Superdry has effectively been able to reach a new and highly engaged audience. We’ve found Australian users on the platform are different to those we see in other platforms. They’re younger, more engaged and highly dedicated.
IRW: Outside of the launch, how has the brand been tracking on TikTok and what have been some of the insights you’ve gathered from the platform?
AH: Our marketing team here in Australia launched Superdry’s global branded profile on August 1 with three high-profile TikTokers (in collaboration with Born Bred Talent) who made guest appearances at our newest Australian store at The Glen in Victoria’s southeast. In the space of two hours, fans created over 250 pieces of branded Superdry content on site, gaining the new profile of over 2000 followers in less than 24 hours. Such growth has never been experienced by the Superdry brand across other channels.
IRW: If you had any advice you could offer other brands in terms of using TikTok, what would it be?
AH: Our advice to brands thinking about using the platform is to get on the platform. Have a look at the content being created and start the conversation with your team. By supporting TikTok talent on the platform, brands can leverage audiences and establish profiles in a more subtle manner before engaging in more traditional advertising. This period allows brands, while not ideal for most brands, allows us to have a more organic integration into the TikTok platform.
IRW: Would you say that Generation Z are a core part of Superdry’s customer base? What are your thoughts on them?
AH: Generation Z is an interesting generation. They are certainly more focused on convenience, personalisation and immediacy than their predecessors and therefore ensuring that brands are acting proactively rather than reactively is important to continue to establish an emotional connection with them. We tend to target attitude and behaviour over age, however it would be neglectful to say that many brands are not in some way targeting Generation Z, including Superdry. When people talk about millennials or Gen Z, then you are talking about a wide range of attitudes towards fashion, culture, travel, music etc which is why I have always found them to be somewhat of a generalisation.
Superdry has recently conducted their largest ever piece of global quantitative and qualitative consumer insight research which has led to a different view on how we segment our consumer base. It has been built primarily around their buying behaviour and attitude towards fashion and has also given some excellent insights into the consumers perception of our brand. These insights will also allow us to design product specifically for these various segments who we know are appreciative of style, quality, attention to detail but most important are focused on value for money. This has always been Superdry’s message, we offer amazing quality in all of our product at a great price.
IRW: Superdry has been around for 15 years now, but given customers’ insatiable appetite for new brands and products, how does a brand remain relevant and exciting in this current climate?
AH: It’s important that brands remain relevant by staying ahead of consumers’ needs. It’s no longer good enough to just offer ‘pass mark’ service. Reducing areas of frustration along the customer journey is now an expectation and falling short of this will only enhance the level of disloyalty towards your brand. It’s critical that every brand looks at their customer experience in order to improve engagement and remain relevant. Reducing pain points and offering a quick, reliable and customised experience is key.
Clearly there is also a need to ensure the product offering is innovative enough that it keeps driving interest from a new consumer while ensuring you are still delivering everyday product for your current customer.
I am a big believer in brands always heroing their narrative. What is it you are good at? What is it that you’re known for? Play to your strengths. This is where you can innovate and keep delivering freshness as you have already worked hard to build equity in this space. Far too often we see brands expanding into new categories or other fields and losing sight of what it is that they execute well, what it is that the consumer loves them for.
Superdry has always been renowned for jackets and fleece, but particularly the former, and we are seeing some incredible innovation and freshness coming out of our snow range. We see great opportunity in this space and our customer is responding really well each season. It makes sense though. We can remain relevant, continue to innovate and drive incremental sales growth in a category where we have earned our consumers trust.
IRW: A lot of fashion retailers are struggling in this current climate. What do you think some of the specific challenges are for fashion at the moment?
AH: An increase in competition has a large part to play in the challenges that many fashion retailers face. Fresh competition, particularly from overseas, and entrants over the past 3+ years has meant the bar has raised across product design and speed to market to ensure you are responding to relevant trends. Most importantly, it’s created a need to become even closer to your customer.
There has also been a significant shift or evolution of the retail landscape, particularly in the last 12 to 18 months. The traditional retail calendar (where we traditionally had fairly defined sale periods such as mid-season sale, end-of-season sale, AW and SS seasonal launches etc) is less applicable now than it was in the past. Why? Because in this competitive environment, we have retailers trying to get an edge over others, driven primarily by discounting. When one horse bolts, the rest follow, which isn’t healthy for brands operating on slim margins. We work in an industry that is capital intensive and this model of discounting directly impacts the bottom line, placing undue pressure on the operation of any retail business.
There is also a different expectation from the customer. Over 80 per cent of customers will go online prior to shopping.Their expectation is to therefore see the latest styles and looks at the best price available – they hold the power. Retailers need to be agile and focus on what they can control, but it can be challenging in an environment where prices are being driven down while costs around us go up.
IRW: You’ve worked in streetwear for a few years now. As a category, it’s becoming more luxe and mainstream, especially as sneakers are having a big moment right now. What are your thoughts on that and where are the opportunities for retailers?
AH: There is no doubt that streetwear is no longer the subculture that it used to be. Thanks to the appropriation of streetwear by many brands positioned at the luxury end of fashion, it has been catapulted into mainstream fashion. Whereas streetwear was once associated with music genres such as punk and emo, today, most mainstream artists are influencing a much wider everyday audience through amplification across social channels. Wearing brands like Supreme or Stussy used to be a symbol of your belonging, now the majority of Gen Z are decked out in it!
I don’t think we should be trying to reinvent the trends as mainstream fashion retailers. Instead, see the opportunity and commercialise it. The reality is that people want to be comfortable and conform with everyday trends so as fashion retailers, it’s important to know what people around the world are wearing and instead of reinventing the wheel, design something with a touch of your DNA.
IRW: Are there any particular retail or fashion trends that you have your eye on at the moment?
AH: As we touched on earlier, the evolution of streetwear and the shift back to looser-fitting styles, such as box fit Ts with minimal branding, is a trend that’s definitely here to stay over the coming seasons.
We are also seeing some really cool tech innovation and unique selling points in product such as the incorporation of UV reactive fabrics in product. The recent collaboration between Converse x Chinatown Market was a really cool example of this where they modernised the Chuck 70 shoes. They transform colour when exposed to UV light through use of a UV activated ink.
Superdry are also utilising this innovation across our board shorts this summer, some of our slides and T-shirts. It provides a great point of difference and keeps the customer interested.
On a more mainstream level, and right down Superdry’s alley, I have been intrigued by how much of a comeback the puffer trend has made this winter. It’s interesting that a product traditionally designed for and utilised for the mountains has transformed to become a wardrobe staple for your urban consumer of late. They are everywhere.