Ziera falls into administration months after announcing digital shift

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.

Comments

2 comments

  1. Anna posted on October 11, 2019

    As a ziera customer, this news is very sad indeed, and it pained me when they sent manufacturing off shore. As a consumer and im sure I speak for others, I am getting sick of paying top dollar for products that are manufacturered overseas. I believe there is a gap in the market that is not catering to the consumers that want quality products that are manufacturered in our own country. There is a market for people willing to pay extra for quality and support local jobs. It just seems now the only type of retail is the rubbish disposable fashion that is cheap and nasty and the only purpose it has is to contribute to landfill. I say bring back home grown manufacturing, quality products and watch your customers fly through the door, these are your loyal customers! I just hope someone picks up this company and brings it back to the quality standard it once was.

  2. Robin Pollock posted on November 8, 2019

    Shock at this news is an understatement. I have only worn (initially) Kumfs, and then Ziera shoes for the past 17 years when I began having foot problems and required orthotics. Comfortable, a wonderful array of styles and colors, Ziera has been a shoe for all ages and most activities. Often I bought 2-3 pairs at a time, a bit expensive - yes - but oh so worth it to be in stylish shoes and have no pain!! I have noticed in the last couple of years however that sizing has changed so was appalled when they announced they were moving online. That would be the end for me because shoes just have to be tried on (in store). Ziera must have the most talented of designers and one has to pray these craftsmen and women keep their job. Their customer service has been second to none and staff actually understand the product - something is becoming rarer these days. But whoever the new buyer is, a word of advice, keep the stores (well enough of them) because I doubt many will purchase shoes without that ability to try them on first.

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