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Superette has been New Zealand’s go-to destination for designer fashion since it was founded by Rickie Dee and James Rigden in 2002. From a single boutique in Auckland, it has grown into a successful omnichannel retail business with eight bricks-and-mortar stores and an online site, offering the most in-demand fashion from local and international labels. 

As Superette gears up for its 20th anniversary this year, we asked Dee about the biggest changes to the retail landscape over the past two decades, and how the business has managed to stay relevant. 

Inside Retail: The retail landscape has changed a lot over the last 20 years. What do you see as being the biggest changes since you started Superette?

Rickie Dee: There’s always challenges with owning a business and you definitely learn as you go. That was definitely the case starting the business at 21 years of age – we were very much self-taught. There’s been so many changes in the retail landscape along the way – I do think a large part of success comes down to looking at the changes and adapting the business to move with the times. It’s important to stay agile and flexible. 

Our online store has certainly provided us with another avenue for growth, particularly with the challenges of Covid-19 and nationwide lockdowns. For us, it’s really important to maintain a strong omnichannel presence – being able to reach out to our customers in a number of different ways. Whether that’s the in-store experience, our online experience, our social media marketing, our events and activations, our emails – the list goes on. It’s about providing a premium experience and environment that our customers want to be a part of.

IR: Were there any periods when you thought the business might not make it, and if so, how did you get through them?

RD: There have been so many ups and downs along the way. The key has always been to just keep moving forward. Starting at 21-years-old was a huge advantage. We never thought, ‘what if it doesn’t work and we have to pay that back?’ We were so determined to make it work and twenty years on James and I both still love coming to work each day.

We love what we do, so we always manage to find a solution to the problem and move on. Starting a business is not easy and certainly a lot of constant hard work. You never turn off. As our business grew, we learnt that we certainly couldn’t do everything and we needed to build a great team behind us to help achieve our goals. We are so lucky to have an incredible Superette team to share our journey with. 

IR: How have you kept your business and product offering fresh over 20 years? Judging by the number of fashion businesses that fall into administration, this seems like a challenge.

IR: I think you have to constantly be working on your brand to keep it fresh and exciting – you can’t sit still in this day and age. Whether that’s new brands, new product offerings or new store concepts – we’re always looking at what’s next. Customers expect to have something fresh and new the whole time and that’s what we really thrive on, always having that next exciting project to talk about. We’re still very much true to what we were doing 20 years ago, but it’s about shaping our offering and brand so that it moves with the times. 

IR: Looking back, what decisions or strategies do you see as being key to your success and longevity?   

RD: I think everything comes down to hard work and loving what you do. If you love what you do, then you’re far more likely to work hard at it. I think also growing slow and steady – we’re always looking at what categories and areas within the business are performing and working on expanding those.

IR: What do you see as being most important to your success going forward? 

RD: Innovation and building the right team. We’re always looking for how we can improve, how we can develop and how we can continue to innovate. Superette is very much a lifestyle – so it’s continuing to keep things fresh, exciting and fun. I love coming in to work each day, working alongside our Superette team and dreaming up exciting new ideas to bring to life.

IR: If you could give any advice to someone who is about to start a retail business, what would it be? 

RD: Prepare for a rollercoaster! You’ve got to be in it through highs and lows and weather the storm. In the beginning stages of building a company or brand, you have to do every role and wear a tonne of different hats. If you’re not willing to do that, it’s not going to work out. Looking back on our 21-year-old selves in our first store on Drake Street, it was all go – we never once thought ‘are we doing everything perfectly?’, we just went with it and learnt from our mistakes along the way. Later on, you earn that flexibility and are able to invest and employ people to keep the momentum going.Rickie DeeSuperette

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