In case you missed it, Inside Retail recently revealed the 20 Coolest Retailers in Australia. It’s an inspiring list of businesses in a wide range of categories – from fashion to food, and beauty to sports – that are setting the bar for great customer service, internal culture, store experience and so much more.
As you’d expect, some of the biggest names in Australian retail are on the list – like T2, Camilla and Aesop. But there are also a handful of smaller retailers you may not have heard of. Here, we highlight three of our 20 Coolest Retailers that really should be on your radar.
If you want to learn more about the 20 Coolest Retailers, you can download the report here.
HoMie: The streetwear label with a purpose
HoMie is an up-and-coming streetwear label with a purpose. Started by Nick Pearce, Marcus Crook and Rob Gillies in 2015, the business uses 100 per cent of its profits to fund a range of social-impact programs for young people living on the streets of Melbourne.
Once a month, the business holds a VIP Shopping Day at its store in Fitzroy, when young Melburnians connected to homelessness support services are invited to shop for free.
The program is as much about restoring dignity as providing much-needed clothes and services – each shopper receives five free items of brand-new HoMie clothing, as well as a haircut, beauty services and lunch with the team.
It was through this program that the founders realised many young people experiencing homelessness didn’t have the skills or work experience needed to get a job and get off the street. So, in 2017 they created the Pathway Project.
This program provides selected individuals with a six-month paid internship, including on-the-job retail experience at the HoMie store, accredited training towards a CERT III in retail operations and increased confidence and life skills through mentorship.
In 2019, the retailer expanded the program beyond its own business and placed interns with the Cotton On Group, Bonds and Champion. Now, HoMie is looking to increase its intake beyond “double figures” for the first time.
Outland Denim: The royal-approved denim brand
Outland Denim is a Queensland-based jeans brand with an unusual origin story. Founder James Bartle started the business after seeing the 2008 film Taken and realising that human trafficking was an ongoing problem.
He became passionate about helping trafficking victims through employment and started a project to teach vulnerable women in Cambodia sewing expertise and life skills to support themselves. In 2016, this project became Outland Denim.
The small Australian label suddenly gained global recognition last October, when the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wore a pair of Outland Denim jeans on her tour of Australia. Sales started pouring in online from customers around the world, and global department stores were clamouring to stock the brand.
For Outland Denim, the exposure required scaling up production in as ethical and sustainable way as possible. The business pays all its factory workers a living wage and provides both professional and life skills training, such as self defense and first aid. It recently opened a brand-new finishing facility, which lessens the environmental impact of the wash and dye process.
Today, the brand continues to set the bar for social responsibility in retail, while also kicking goals commercially. The brand is stocked in Myer and David Jones, and just released a new collection made in collaboration with the Kiwi designer Karen Walker.
Ultra Football: The best soccer store in the world
Founded by Chris Fifer and Nick Milankovic in 2018, Ultra Football is not your average sports store.
For one thing, it only stocks premium football, that is soccer, products. For another, it houses a full-size indoor football pitch, EA sports lounge, customisation zone, in-house barber and Italian restaurant. And when it opened in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria last January, it had several Matildas players on staff.
It’s all part of the immersive shopping experience Ultra Football aims to provide. And even though the store is less than two years old, the concept is already resonating with customers.
The store sold the same number of top-end boots in July, August and September as it did in February, which is peak period for football, and the business has roughly doubled year on year.
Now, the founders have plans to take Ultra Football interstate.