International tag goes for hometown touch

By Graham Skellern - Business Editor

The power of the brand has convinced one of the world's best known clothing companies to operate in Tauranga under a local name, Nevada.

The former Boardwalk store in Mid City Mall reopened yesterday under the name Nevada Denim-Surf-Skate, and not under the Billabong International brand.

Billabong, which has 640 stores in more than 60 countries and revenue of about $2 billion, looked at latest research and decided Nevada would give them a higher profile in the Bay.

Nevada, which last year introduced online shopping, was ranked in the top 10 of youth retail clothing brands in New Zealand.

Billabong, which also owns the Amazon Surf/Skate/Denim chain, bought the established Nevada business at Bayfair Mall last February, and it took over the Boardwalk Denim-Surf-Skate store after it went into liquidation in April.

The Amazon store at Fashion Island, Papamoa, established three years ago, will also be renamed Nevada within the next two months. It is expected to become an outlet store.

"I feel proud that a corporate like Billabong is prepared to run with a brand created in the Bay. Twenty years of retailing hasn't been a complete waste of time," said Geoff Wyllie-Miln, who established Nevada in 1991 and moved four times to different sites in the Bayfair shopping centre.

"Consumers in this area want a multi-brand store, not just one brand," said Wyllie-Miln. "A Billabong store itself sits well in real tourist areas like Noosa and Queenstown."

Nevada features a wide variety of skate, surf and streetwear and accessories (watches, sunglasses, skateboards) from international brands Von Zipper, RVCA, Element, Kustom (footwear), Nixon and Tigerlily to home-grown Public Gallery and Ilabb clothing, plus of course Billabong.

Queensland-based Billabong was supplying Boardwalk, one of Tauranga's original surf shops when it went into liquidation. Billabong was owed money and it decided to retain a presence in downtown Tauranga.

After completing a deal with the liquidator, Billabong ran a liquidation sale to get rid of existing stock and start afresh. Mr Wyllie-Miln has been retained on a two-year contract to oversee the three Nevada stores. Two staff from Boardwalk have been re-employed, with Clare McInerney managing the Mid City Mall.

Mr Wyllie-Miln said the past 12 months of retail had been some of the toughest times he had experienced but there was still a place for bricks and mortar stores.

"No doubt, there's more competition in our market and online shopping has made a significant impact. But stores will still be in the mix. We don't know where online will end up and there has to be a balance eventually," he said.

Mr Wyllie-Miln has done a full cycle. He and his brother Steve Miln, former Bay of Plenty Steamers rugby assistant coach, bought Boardwalk in 1999 and then sold his shareholding five years later.

Boardwalk, which started life in the old Westpac Plaza between Devonport Rd and Grey St in the mid-1980s, moved to the re-developed Deka building in Mid City Mall in 2003. Now Mr Wyllie-Miln has set up the latest skate, surf and streetwear shop on the same site.

He started Nevada when Levi Strauss jeans and casual wear were the next best thing. He named his store after the discovery of the oldest pair of Levi jeans down a mine shaft in Las Vegas, Nevada, - the jeans had been there for nearly 100 years.

A few doors away in Mid City Mall, Demo Streetwear - which like Boardwalk concentrated on casual surf and streetwear - closed today after trading there for 12 months.

The store had been on the market for 12 months but there had been no takers. The owners, Graeme and Karen Rowlands, are still operating High St Boutique in Devonport Rd.

Just across the street in lower Devonport Rd, local designer and manufacturer RPM Apparel is providing further competition in the youth fashion market by opening its first retail store called Square.

Mount Maunganui-based RPM, which has concentrated on wholesale and online shopping, produces men and women's casual wear, denim, and accessories such as beanies and caps.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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