Talking shop: Martin Bremner, Ziera
Welcome to Talking shop, a new weekly series where we interview the head of a New Zealand retail business about their growth plans and challenges, and get their thoughts on the latest business trends.
This week, we’re featuring our interview with Martin Bremner, the recently appointed CEO of footwear brand Ziera.
Inside Retail New Zealand: Ziera recently announced plans to close some stores and focus more online. Can you elaborate on these plans?
Martin Bremner: Our growth plans are responses to the changes we see in customer expectations, attitudes and behaviours. Global trends such as Wellness, #MeToo and Sustainability mean our value proposition is more relevant to a broader group of customers than ever before. We are organising ourselves to serve these new customers. We first entered the Australian market in the early 1970s and have similar tenure in other international markets – you will see us refocusing in the same way across our global presence.
IRNZ: Is the shift away from physical stores the result of a difficult trading environment? Is the shift online a response to this?
MB: Obviously bricks and mortar is dynamic, tough and highly competitive world as everyone is aware. We opened our first store in Australia in 1995. Our footprint has evolved since then and this is another phase in our adapting and responding proactively to changing environments. How customers shop is changing, so our shops must change too.
IRNZ: How do you approach each market you operate in…Australia/New Zealand? How will a bigger online presence help in these markets?
MB: We are a relatively late entrant to the e-commerce channel and the continuing success we are seeing has developed our confidence to move strongly to a digital-led strategy. Our digital strategy helps our stores in these markets by enabling them to focus on delivering a world-class experience. We’re all about freeing women from having to choose between comfort and style, and our bricks-and-mortar stores and retail teams will always be core to delivering this.
IRNZ: You mentioned that global trends, such as wellness and #metoo are making the brand more relevant to a broader range of customers. Can you explain what you mean by this?
MB: Traditionally ‘comfort’ footwear brands have appealed to an older demographic. The global trends we are all seeing mean women are less prepared to endure pain to achieve a style or fashion, and more aware of the long-term health consequences of making such choices poorly. This is translating into a refusal to compromise, of women demanding both comfort and style. Sustainability, and the reaction against disposable culture, is translating to a shift to brands that deliver on the promise of quality and durability.
IRNZ: What is the key focus for the business moving forward?
MB: To deliver on our brand promises.
IRNZ: How do you expect new head of product design Rosie Jamieson will assist in this shift?
MB: We are a design-led, purpose-driven company so Rosie is at the centre of this shift.
Rosie is driving the reinvention of Ziera, in terms of our product range and our business culture. She focuses on customer needs rather than SKUs, seeking the widest possible feedback and turning it into actionable insight. She is integrating design technology (such as 3D printing), innovative product engineering, fashion trends and customer feedback to create a range that truly delivers no compromise between style and comfort.
IRNZ: The partnership with The Iconic is interesting, as they typically serve a younger demographic. Does this signal a shift in the customers Ziera is hoping to speak to moving forward?
MB: Women, especially young women, have come through a long phase where they have experienced a dress-down culture, with casual work dress codes, ubiquitous activewear, trainers and sneakers. Now the pendulum is beginning to swing back, they are demanding the same level of comfort from dress shoes that they have become used to in the athleisure category.
At the same time, Rosie’s “handwriting” has begun to come through in the range, elevating our style credentials and relevance to contemporary trends and fashion.
These factors combined make the Iconic a logical and attractive marketplace for us to participate in.
IRNZ: Why did Ziera decide it was time for a change in leadership?
MB: Ziera been operating in a very disrupted environment for the last couple of years and has responded by investing in capability (systems and people) and working on strategy. We have the capability and strategy in place and now is the time to execute. The changes in leadership reflect that.
IRNZ: Are there plans for Ziera to become available on further online marketplaces?
MB: Not at this stage.
If you run a New Zealand retail business and would like to be featured in our Talking shop series, please contact the editorial team.