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First look: New Zealand’s Rodd & Gunn lands in London

With more than 50 stores across New Zealand, Australia and the US, antipodean menswear brand Rodd & Gunn had made its first move into Europe via a store on London’s Mayfair. CEO Mike Beagley discusses the launch.

First established in 1946, men’s outdoor lifestyle brand Rodd & Gunn has 20 stores, one concession shop and three outlets in its native New Zealand, as well as another 20 stores, 63 concessions and seven outlets across Australia. In 2016, it left the antipodean region and opened its first store in the US, where it now has eight shops, as well as wholesale accounts with key retailers including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.

The retailer now has its eyes set on European expansion and has opened its first UK store on Conduit Street in London’s Mayfair. Rodd & Gunn’s London home is divided between 1,458 sq ft of retail space upstairs and 1,619 sq ft downstairs, which is half retail and half showroom.

The collection focuses on a classic outdoors look, blending smart and casual styles – think rugged outerwear, cosy knits and smart separates, such as polos and its bestselling shirts. Retail prices range from £40 for a T-shirt to £595 for a leather jacket. Accessories range from £30 for socks to £1,250 for a leather weekend bag.

CEO Mike Beagley introduces the brand and discusses expansion plans and international learnings.

What is Rodd & Gunn?

We are s New Zealand lifestyle brand focused on the casual part of our customers’ lives. We embrace the New Zealand outdoors, as well as the wine and food culture that the region has become renowned for. We are not outdoorsy and we are not formal per se.

We are where every man wants to be: comfortable, confident and secure. The brand is not a slave to fashion, and we view the world through an antipodean lens. Our target customer is 30-plus and appreciates quality.

We started out as a hunting and fishing brand, then morphed into a casual lifestyle brand. We believe we are the Range Rover of fashion, where you can take it way off road, but it is more often found in Chelsea or on the M4.

Rodd & gunn (1)

Why open your first UK store now?

We have been in the US for eight years now and that market is growing incredibly well. We have a huge amount of runway ahead of us and we could have been content with just building our business there. However, given our success in the northern hemisphere, we thought we should continue our journey to the UK.

Coming from the southern hemisphere and coping with the [problems] that throws at a business has put us in a strong position to be able to adapt to new markets.

Every person you come into contact with is a company employee

We feel very comfortable here and, weirdly, given we are 14,000 miles away, everything feels very familiar, which I can’t say was our experience in the US initially.

Why this location at Conduit Street, central London?

We didn’t chose this location – it chose us. The decision was purely based on the fantastic relationship we built with our landlord. It wasn’t strategically planned, it just happened. I have found in my business life, and life in general, things that just happen generally are the best.

We are not an Oxford Street brand, we can’t afford Regent Street, and we aren’t luxury enough for Bond Street, so I couldn’t think of any better address than Conduit Street.

Tell us about the store

In our [shopping centre] stores, we have to create the ambience [of the brand]. Our stores [there] are modelled on upmarket New Zealand lodges, and we call our stores “lodges”. But in freestanding buildings, like our London lodge, we tend to be sympathetic to the building and let that do the talking.

This design is more industrial than we normally would be, but it is how the building spoke to us and we want it to do all the talking. We have added a little bit of New Zealand [via the decor] to the space and made it into a place to come and experience a piece of the southern hemisphere.

One thing for sure is, we will have made mistakes already that we don’t even know about yet

The store will stock all of our products covering all clothing categories, our full accessories line including a one-off Australian saltwater crocodile holdall that was hand made in New Zealand, plus footwear from Italy, Portugal and elsewhere.

You started in the New Zealand, then expanded to Australia and the US. What have you learnt through this expansion?

It has been an exciting journey, and one that most other brands do a lot quicker than us. We have been a lot slower, because of our manic desire to control every aspect of our brand. We don’t outsource anything, and we don’t use distributors or agents. Every person you come into contact with is a company employee.

We could have opened up countries like a badge of honour, but we chose to build deeper and more meaningful relationships in each country. The experience in the US has taught us a lot and we will hopefully learn less painful lessons in the UK.

One thing for sure is, we will have made mistakes already that we don’t even know about yet. How quickly we can correct and adapt will determine how successful we are, and how we quickly we can reach that success.

Rodd & gunn (4)

How do you think British shoppers will respond to the brand?

I hope that the response will be overwhelmingly positive, but you never know. I think we should resonate with British shoppers. After all, we have an English Pointer as our brand logo.

Our UK ecommerce demand has been the strongest in the northern hemisphere, outside the US. We are investing heavily to build a strong UK ecommerce business supported by global 24/7, 365-day-a-year customer service.

What are you bestselling styles?

We have some “icon” products that define us, such as our Jack jacket, which has been worn by action heroes in many movies and TV shows, and our Winscombe travel jacket, which is my go-to jacket for nearly every occasion. As a New Zealand company, we have an affinity with wool: sheep numbers are 10 times our population.

Our knitwear and Italian woven blazers demonstrate our understanding of fine wool. Our biggest category is shirting. 

What’s next?

We have some exciting projects closer to home in the next six months, such as opening a flagship store on the waterfront in Auckland, New Zealand. This 4,000 sq feet space will feature our full clothing offer and the second of our Lodge Bar and Dining concepts.

Our food offer is designed by Michelin-starred New Zealand chef Matt Lambert from the New York restaurant the Musket Room and our wine list curated by New Zealand’s only master sommelier, Cameron Douglas.

There will also be more flagship stores in Sydney, Melbourne and most likely New York in the next 12 months, plus further mall openings in the US.

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