Footwear retailer Ziera has entered voluntary administration just a few months after appointing a new CEO and chairman and laying out a digital transformation strategy.
Despite seeing more than 50 per cent year-on-year growth in online sales in Australia and New Zealand, the rising cost of rent and wages and falling sales in bricks-and-mortar stores have made it uneconomical for the shoe brand to continue trading.
Conor McElhinney and Andrew Grenfell, partners of McGrathNicol, have been appointed voluntary administrators of Ziera’s New Zealand entities, and Shaun Fraser and Kathy Sozou, partners of McGrathNicol Australia, have been appointed administrators of the brand’s Australian operations.
The administrators said they intend to continue operating the companies while seeking a sale of the business, either in whole or in part.
Previously branded as Kumfs, Ziera was founded in 1946 on the principle of providing stylish and comfortable women’s footwear. It sells footwear to independent shoe retailers around the world, including in the US, Australia, and Singapore, as well as through its own retail store network in New Zealand and Australia.
The retailer was slow to embrace e-commerce, only launching online in 2016. However, it recently announced a partnership with The Iconic as part of a broader plan to close most physical stores and focus on online sales.
In May, it appointed a new CEO, Martin Bremner, and chairman, Andrew Robertson, to execute the digital transformation, and a new head of product design, Rosie Jamieson, to help reinvent the brand’s range for younger consumers.
But it struggled to respond to several external factors, including the falling value of the New Zealand dollar, which led to higher manufacturing costs; the US-China trade dispute, which saw US tariffs on shoes rise 25 per cent; and the falling value of the Australian dollar, which impacted sales margins in the brand’s most important market.
At the same time, globally independent footwear retailers have been closing as larger competitors and online sales take more market share, limiting Ziera’s wholesale market.
McElhinney said he and the other administrators believe there is still value in the Ziera brand and offering.
“Ziera offers something unique in the women’s footwear market: stylish, quality shoes that have been orthopedically designed to be able to be worn all day in comfort,” he said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“There is an incorrect perception that the shoes are only for mature women. The business rebranded from Kumfs to Ziera to appeal to a broader customer base, but the message about Ziera’s technology did not cut through.
“In our assessment, the technology has real value and we hope to find another footwear retailer to take on the Ziera mantle and continue to supply its loyal market, while bringing the comfortable fashion message to all women.”
Ziera has 22 stores in New Zealand and 23 stores in Australia. It has approximately 140 staff in New Zealand and 110 in Australia.