Kathmandu chairman plans expansion

SUSE MITCHELL
Last updated 10:34 07/02/2014

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New Kathmandu chairman David Kirk has flagged a renewed focus on international expansion at the outdoor clothing company, saying geographic boundaries should no longer be a barrier to offshore expansion.

The former All Blacks captain says retailers such as Kathmandu - known for its polar fleece sweaters, feather-light sleeping bags and sturdy hiking boots - should be looking to target natural customers, whether they be in local or overseas markets.

"What you are looking for is the natural customer or groups of people who are natural purchasers of your products," Kirk told The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.

Kirk, who is also chairman of TradeMe and Hoyts Group, took the reins from acting chairman John Harvey, who stepped into the role after the death of James Strong in March 2013.

"Now we have the internet and more data, we have the ability to use that data [and] it's time to think about whether we should talk about . . . national boundaries or natural groupings of consumers," Kirk said.

"If you're selling software, it doesn't matter where people are, they can buy it anywhere. And if you're making that sale online or by telephone, you can be selling to any country in the world without ever worrying about national boundaries, like Amazon has done."

Kirk says Kathmandu needs to build its brand presence so when consumers around the globe are looking online they don't google "outdoor clothing" but "Kathmandu".Boosting brand awareness

The retailer plans to emulate global brands such as Williams-Sonoma and Marks & Spencer, which are establishing flagship stores in new markets to boost brand awareness while drumming up online business.

Kathmandu has four stores in the UK in high-profile locations, such as Kensington High Street, augmented by Kathmandu online, mobile and outlets and a presence on Amazon's UK site.

Online accounts for 4.1 per cent of total sales and the company hopes to lift it to about 10 per cent.

Kathmandu also plans to open about 15 new stores a year in Australia and New Zealand, taking its total footprint to more than 170, to add to same-store sales growth.

"I'm not coming in here to reinvent anything but to support the next stage of the company's growth," Kirk said.

"The next stage has additional ­complexity because it involves more online and more geographic diversification, taking the Kathmandu brand to other geographies."

Kirk, a former Fairfax Media chief executive, hopes to bring his expertise in e-commerce and digital marketing to Kathmandu.

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In his three-year career at Fairfax, he made more than half a dozen acquisitions, including TradeMe, the New Zealand equivalent of eBay, holiday rental site Stayz, and Rural Press.

"I'm a growth guy, always thinking about how to grow a business - unless you're growing, you're dying," he said.

- AFR

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