Menswear retailer Barkers has bought women's clothing brand Max Fashions - taking the business back to being 100 per cent New Zealand-owned.

The women's clothing chain, currently owned by Australian private equity firm Catalyst, has a network of 40 retail stores and is a bigger beast than Barkers, which has 30 stores nationwide.

The amount Barkers paid for Max was not disclosed and the business will change hands next month.

Consumers will not notice any change to either retail chain on face value and the brands will share sourcing and distribution channels going forward.


The new bulked up group will have the ability to offer better quality clothes.

Barkers managing director Jamie Whiting will move into a group chief executive role and Max Fashions chief executive Simon West will move into a director role and appoint a new chief executive.

Glenn Cracknell, Barkers chief operating officer, will step into the role of CEO.

Under new ownership, Whiting said the retailers would operate independently but as part of a group, similarly to NZX-listed Hallenstein Glasson Holdings.

Barkers had been looking for acquisition opportunities for four years prior to the deal. This is its first foray into the women's wear market.

"Barkers and Max brands have quite a natural fit in the market in terms of their positioning and customer demographic, and so when the opportunity for Max came up we just felt like it would be a natural fit for the brands in terms of synergies, cultures and the way we run the businesses," Whiting said.

Whiting, who worked at Max Fashions briefly in 2009, said the deal showcased confidence in New Zealand retail and the brand's position in the market.

"The opportunity for us is to grow a bigger group," he said. "Both brands direct-source and now that we have a business of considerable scale this will allow us to source better and ultimately bring a better product to market."

He could not say if the company's intention was to make further acquisitions.

Expansion and new store openings is on the cards for both brands going forward.

Barkers will open a store in Commercial Bay when the retail precinct opens its doors in September next year, has secured a retail site in Newmarket Westfield and will open two others, including one in Bayfair Shopping Centre in Tauranga before Christmas.

A Max fashion store in Riccarton, Christchurch. Photo / Supplied
A Max fashion store in Riccarton, Christchurch. Photo / Supplied

Max will open two stores next year.

Max Fashions was established in the mid-80s by David Wright. It was sold to local private equity firm Direct Capital and later acquired by Ezibuy, which was partially owned by Catalyst.

"We didn't think we'd be the best owners of the Max business going forward and were interested in passing on the baton of Max to a new owner," Simon West, long-time Max Fashions director and current chief executive, said.

"There aren't many iconic New Zealand-owned fashion businesses that have good brand presence, execute really well and are well-financed. We're wrapped with the deal."

Asked if the plan was to float on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Whiting said that was not the intention - at least not anytime soon: "We have to get some good growth before we contemplate that."

Combined, the group will have a 600 people-strong team and 70 retail stores.