The Seat of My Pants
New Zealand was in recession in the early 90’s but with each store we opened, customers seemed to love what we were doing and our sales grew. They were exciting times, my confidence was back and I did everything. In between negotiating leases, working with architects, shop fitters and hiring new store people I was buying seasonal ranges, creating our catalogues and travelling overseas to the shoe fairs. We closed down the last of the Shoetown shops and continued to open Overland stores.
Super Models, Famous Actors and the Overland Catalogue
I felt it was important to look like an international fashion retailer so we created catalogues and in-store images with world class models. Being a bit of a cheeky bugger and not having the money to do photo shoots I used to rip appropriate pictures from magazines and use those. Looking back we used Brad Pitt before he became famous, along with Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford amongst others. Again I was tempting fate and a newly formed board convinced me a wise man would stop this, so we started doing our own shoots in the late 90s. It was tough making them look as glamorous…
The Wheels Fall Off
All was going well when the Asian Crisis hit in 1997 and the wheels seemed to fall off. Being the eternal optimist I felt anything I bought for our stores would sell, and for a long time it did; but suddenly business slowed and we had 30% more stock than we needed. Cash was getting tight. It was sobering, especially remembering my promise to myself 10 years ago…. “Build a strong foundation and focus on people”
New People and Harry from Kansas
I needed help so looked offshore for a training system we could use for our retail people, and stumbled across the charismatic Harry Friedman, an outrageous and invigorating American from Kansas. His philosophy on training and putting goals in front of people to engage them made a huge amount of sense. This became the base for our Overland Training system. More Support People with specific skills were added and slowly things turned around.
Reflecting at a friend’s New Year’s eve party in 1999 I realized how far we’d come. We now had 18 profitable stores, great people and a strong customer base. Things looked ok. I went into the year 2000 with renewed optimism, but also with the awareness that I still had a lot of learning to do.