Kiwi streetwear brand Huffer is in expansion mode gearing up to launch into the Chinese and Korean markets in August.
The Auckland-based wholesale company was founded by former "part-professional" snowboarder Steve Dunstan when he was 21 years old and has eight stores in New Zealand and three across the ditch in Australia.
Dunstan, now 45, said Huffer would triple the number of stores its product was sold in worldwide, and open more retail stores.
It is eyeing a total of 10 retail stores in Australia by 2020.
"It's quite an interesting proposition taking a household name to a new market," Dunstan said. "You'd think from a brand perspective, the natural path would be the US but there just seems to be more opportunities around Asian markets to launch into the Northern Hemisphere."
China and Korea will be the first markets it branches into outside of Australia, both appealing as they are dynamic, Dunstan said.
"There are areas of growth within our sector that we can see in those markets that we're excited about."
It will expand into the US and Canada afterwards, he said.
The US and Canada would be future markets to expand into afterwards, he said.
Dunstan started the brand with Dan Buckley in April 1997 when he was dabbling in professional snowboarding. At the time there were no companies making snowboard gear technically sound for the sport, Dunstan said, so they set out to make some.
Huffer began selling clothing in retailers such as Cheapskates and after 14 years in business, opened its first retail store in Newmarket in 2011. It opened its first Australian store at Bondi Beach in Sydney, then one in Newtown and Melbourne.
It is still mainly wholesale with its clothing sold in more than 130 retailers including at North Beach, David Jones, Culture Kings and SurfStitch.
"The retail arm is there to really help tell our brand story and develop a sense of activation for the brand, and wholesale."
The brand opened its flagship store in the former Ponsonby fire station in April this year and is celebrating the opening on July 5 as part of its Huffer on Tour event, travelling to its stores across New Zealand bringing live entertainment and parties.
Dunstan said he believed the key to retail success outside of offering great product was engaging with customers through events and unique experiences.
"People need the stimulation and for us our retail stores will always be more than just a store with product hanging.
Huffer has been using coffee as a way of bringing customers into its stores for the past 10 years through its Free Coffee Friday events.
"We aspire to have coffee machines in all of our stores. To me, coffee is a conversation... and the whole idea of that is to say 'hey, stop, stick around, let's have a conversation, we want to get to know you'," Dunstan said.
Offering experiences and engaging with the those who ring in the sales was the key to success in the sector, Dunstan said.
"It's a finely tuned recipe that you need," he said.
"Your brand needs to have life and you need a relationship with your customer.
"You need to have people part of it rather than just being about a transaction."
Retail consultant Chris Wilkinson said Huffer had become an iconic brand that had carved out a unique niche, capturing "the aspiration of younger consumers".
"This is not easy in a small market like New Zealand, with few others managing to emulate this," Wilkinson said. "Retail has been the way Huffer has been able to demonstrate its culture and values, through quirky events, closely engaging their communities.
"Each store is characterful, different and reflective of its local market, which is unlike the 'cookie-cutter approach of others in this category," he said. "Shoppers are hungry for differentiation and increasingly tiring of the 'sameness' in retail."