Holster steps into Johannesburg, eyes China

holsterDriven by demand from its international distributors, Australian footwear brand, Holster, is expanding its international operations, opening of its first store in South Africa and revealing plans for a store in China.

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Opened in Johannesburg in mid-July, the Holster-branded store aims to replicate the same relaxed, beach feel as the brand’s flagship Noosa boutique.

“Because the Holster brand is exploding in South Africa, we saw the need for a branded store,” Ben Nothling, Holster cofounder, told Inside Retail Weekly.

Nothling said sales have been strong over the initial trading period, with momentum expected to carry through summer. There are plans to open two further stores in South Africa, a second in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town.

The move follows the opening of a Holster store in Dubai in January 2015. Nothling said the Middle East will be a hub for wholesale operations, rather than a market for opening more Holster-branded stores.

Instead, sights are set on China, with plans in the works to open a Holster store in summer 2016, possibly in Shanghai.

Each international store follows guidelines to replicate Holster’s Noosaville flagship, however slight distinctions are deployed for different markets. For example, in China the store will feature glass cabinets filled with sand and shells to bring the seaside to megacities.

In 2014 Holster reported a 25 per cent year on year sales lift, with 500,000 pairs of shoes sold globally. For 2015, Nothling is predicting at least another 25 per cent sale lift, partly on the back of strong wholesale orders from the US, which is another key international market.

Holster-Australia

Despite the international growth, Nothling has been able to keep his feet on the ground and the business headquartered in Noosa.

“You can run a business from a regional area now,” he said. “The internet makes it very easy.”

The nature and solitude offered in Noosa has helped counter the pressure that accompanies the rapid international expansion the brand has experienced over recent years.

“If your orders double, you can’t run your business with the same amount of staff,” Nothling said. “You need new procedures, there’s so much that comes with it.”

Looking forward, a weakening Aussie dollar is a mixed bag for the business.

“For next season the Aussie dollar is so weak, any imported goods will have to see price rises,” Nothling said.

“We have to lift some of our prices, there is nothing we can do about it. We can’t absorb it anymore.”

Nothling said he was hearing a similar story among other Australian footwear importers, who plan to lift prices to protect margins.

“For our export market, the weaker Aussie dollar is good when you are selling in US dollars. You might lose out here but in your export you win because you make more profit.”

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