No one said it would be easy…

April 15, 2013

When I moved back to New Zealand from Australia for my “dream job” (more on that another day) I was disappointed and frustrated by the lack of women’s clothing options available here, and the prices that we were expected to pay – up to twice as much as our Australian friends!

I wanted to start up an online store, so I approached the distributors of my favourite labels.  Some of the suppliers agreed to allow me to stock their products once the website was live, others said that they were restricted by exclusive supply agreements with a certain retailer, and others replied straight away with: “no, sorry”.

I filed the idea in the too hard basket, and focused on my “dream job”, then went on the trip of a lifetime (you can read all about that here), and didn’t really think about it a whole lot more.  I found myself often encouraging my friends to start their own businesses; “you should get an IPL machine and do treatments from home”, “I think you’d make an amazing photographer”, “why don’t you set up as a wedding stylist?”, “yes, there is definitely a market for dog beds, get the sewing machine out!”, and after a few Marborough Sauvs with floating raspberries, I said “I would absolutely love to have my own online store”, and as luck would have it, someone overheard me and said “if you want to start an online store, then you should start an online store” (and then followed up daily to ask what I had done about it!).

And so I pulled my note book out from under the bed (actually), and dusted it off (literally) and started going through the list of contacts.  This time around, the responses were generally a lot more positive, suppliers were a lot more receptive to the idea of an online store, and their enthusiasm was contagious.

Of course you can’t please all the people all the time, and there were some suppliers who refused to let me stock their product unless I promised to charge full RRP all of the time (a violation of the Commerce Act 1986) and a couple of others who declined to supply my online store unless I also opened a physical store.  All of this was “to protect the brand” and “in the interest of our bricks and mortar stockists” and all I could think was ‘what about the consumer?  What about the people who walk around in your product and make it look good? Who is going to protect them?’

In my humble opinion, it’s not the price of a product that determines its value, discounting something doesn’t “cheapen the brand” as they claim.  Physical stores have very high overheads, so they need a large mark up to cover these costs.  Lease payments at Westfield aren’t cheap, but then it’s pretty exxy to fuel up this sucker:

Ilona - owned by Frank Lowy (founder of Westfield)

Ilona – owned by Frank Lowy (founder of Westfield)

I’m not sure how these brands expect me to gain a competitive advantage.  I don’t have a store front, I can’t put big signs in the window, I can’t employ a door man, or advertise “ladies night” with champagne and a topless waiter or two.  All I can do, is offer amazing clothes, at amazing prices – that’s it.

And so the first orders were placed, paid for and ready for despatch.  An album was even uploaded to Facebook (check it out here) and it was all systems go!

Within days, one supplier announced that they were unable (or unwilling) to despatch the goods until the website was live and they could approve it – it’s a touch hard to launch an online store with no stock…but the other supplier announced that the goods were on the way!

Three weeks later the much awaited delivery hadn’t taken place, and it turned out the package had been spied by a highly astute NZ Customs employee, and was being held for ransom (duty).  Who knew you had to have an importers license to receive clothing from Australia?  We’re one and the same are we not?  What’s theirs is ours and what’s ours is theirs?  No?  No.

So the ransom was begrudgingly paid (on the same day that I got a speeding ticket!) and once again the dresses were on their merry way to Hazel’s House.  All interested parties were notified and carbohydrate consumption was curbed in anticipation…

A fews days later and still no dresses, according to NZ Post’s website the parcel had been delivered to Hazel’s House, at 09:01am on Friday April 12th, and it had been signed for – by a Jagjit Singh.  This required a call to the hotline, to advise them that the parcel had in actual fact not been delivered:

“Are you sure?” Janine from the call centre asked

“Yes, I’m quite sure” I said

“But it’s been signed for” she said

“Yes” I said “it has been signed for, but there is no one by that name at the address”

“Are you sure?” asked Janine

“Yes, yes I’m quite sure”

“Right.  What was the address on the parcel?” she asked

“I haven’t seen the parcel” I said, “but it should be (insert top secret location here)”

“And it hasn’t been delivered?”

“No, no it hasn’t”

“How big is the parcel?”

“I’m not sure, I haven’t seen it”

“What colour is the parcel?”

“I’m not sure, I haven’t seen it”

“Is it in a bag or a box?”

“I’m not sure, I haven’t seen it”

“Could you describe the parcel for me?”

“No, sorry, I can’t, I haven’t seen the parcel!  Maybe ask the people in customs who stared at it for 20 days, they’ll be able to tell you”

So, more than a month after despatch, the dresses still haven’t arrived at Hazel’s House, but that just adds to the excitment doesn’t it?  Surely you’ll have to tune in for the next episode now!

Jagjit, if you’re reading this, I’ve already paid the ransom, I won’t be paying it again, please just drop the dresses off and we’ll never speak of this again…

Hazel Signature

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