The superstar boss behind premium fashion concept store Superette shares 21 years of insights from the front lines of retail
Rickie Dee was just 21 years old when she and business partner James Rigdin opened their first Superette store on Auckland’s Drake St.
21 years and several stores later, including an expansive new premises in Newmarket and a stunning outpost in Christchurch’s Merivale, we sit down with the retail queen and ask…how’s business?
Hey Rickie Dee! How’s business?
It’s been an exciting year getting two new Superette stores open – our new store in Newmarket on Morrow St, and our second store in Christchurch, in Merivale. We’ve also replatformed and redesigned our website, so it’s been a year of big projects. However, no two days are the same and we’ve found we need to be making constant tweaks in the way we do things. Purchasing has become a lot more considered for us all. Ultimately, 2023 has been about simplifying our business where we can, and really connecting back with our customer in this changing retail environment.
It’s been eight weeks since you opened your new Newmarket store. What was behind the big move?
We are beyond excited to have our store open again in Newmarket and in a new site on Morrow St. The store itself is more than double the size of our previous Nuffield Street store. Although we are sad to have had to move on from that location as a result of the flooding, we are excited for the new chapter ahead with more space to showcase what Superette has to offer. We’re really lucky that Daily Bread is sharing the same site as us – it’s such a nice addition that adds to the whole store experience. We’ve always wanted Superette to be a space that people can come and hang out in and enjoy, so this is a really exciting move for us.
Since the new site presented itself, it just felt right. We love that it has elements of our original Drake Street store, that also housed a café. And the extra space allows us to really showcase our beautiful products and increase our offering in those categories/brands that are really having a moment.
What are the new Newmarket store’s key product focuses and brands?
It’s so great to be able to showcase our full lifestyle offering in a larger scale fit-out, designed by the award winning Design Office out of Melbourne. We have dedicated areas for brands and categories, making the shopping experience a lot simpler for our customers. It’s our largest store which means we have the space to really celebrate the best of our women’s, men’s, kids and home offerings.
A few of the new brands we have welcomed this year include: Friends with Frank, Alemais, Marle, Hansen and Gretel, Sunset Lover, Anna Quan, Silk Laundry, A.P.C. and Dinosaur Designs. Our new Morrow St site is also closer to our Superette International store in Kent street, which stocks brands such as Rag and Bone, Samsoe Samsoe, Maison Kitsune, Alexander Wang and so many more, allowing our customers to enjoy both at ease and right in the heart of Newmarket.
The staff culture at Superette must be intrinsic to your success – what are the three things you focus on when hiring and/or retaining good staff?
A passion for the brand, a willingness to grow and learn, and the ability to be agile and adaptable, as fashion is such a fast-paced industry and is constantly evolving. We are so lucky to have an incredible team around us and they all play a part in what Superette is today. Every one of them is beyond passionate about the brand, and eager to raise the bar from where we were yesterday. We have internal values and goals that we talk to everyday to ensure everyone is on the same journey, together.
What’s a standout customer interaction/piece of feedback you’ve received recently?
Opening our store in Merivale last week was incredible. It was so exciting to see a line out the door on the morning of opening day. We had loads of positive feedback from customers who were just so excited to have this new, go-to store in Christchurch that offers such a beautifully curated in-store experience.
Store openings are always a highlight for us as it’s a chance for the team and myself to connect directly with our customers, understand which brands they’re loving and get across any other feedback they might have.
Thinking back to your very first store on Drake Street in Freemans Bay (where you also won Best Café in NZ!) how does the Superette of 2023 resemble the same business you started way back then?
This question is so timely, as it really does feel like a full circle moment this year. Our store on Drake St with the café was very much inline with this early vision we had to create an environment that would make our customers feel inspired, and right at home. Sharing our new Newmarket space with Daily Bread… it’s like we’ve gone right back to our roots – mixing fashion with hospitality.
As far as our business model, we really have stayed true to the foundations of that very first store: a curation of the best products across multiple categories, sourced by us from the best brands around the world, displayed in inspiring spaces.
Describe your business partnership with James Rigden, who’s been there since the very beginning with you. How have you worked off each others’ strengths to get to where you are now?
It’s easy. I think we make a great team. Back in the day we used to do everything together, but as we grew the business, we realised that we couldn’t have two people doing the same thing. So we started focusing on different aspects. We are lucky that we have two different skill sets, and we’re respectful of each other and our different strengths.
In recent years the fashion industry has become awash with DTC brands who have shunned the traditional wholesale model. How has Superette held onto core wholesale partnerships during this time?
We built Superette on a wholesale model and it still continues to be the biggest sector of our business. Our brands are such an important part of what we do, and some have been with us since we started 21 years ago. They are genuinely part of our team, and our buyers and wider team have amazing relationships with each and every one of them. Covid definitely saw a rise in DTC brands for obvious reasons, but now it’s retail’s time to shine again. Customers are eager to have that tangible shopping experience back.
Who is a business figure you’d love a power lunch with and what would you grill them about?
Anine Bing. I admire her style, her business ethic and the fact that she’s doing it all whilst being a mum. She is so connected to her brand and has built her empire into something remarkable over the past 10 years – and to think that it all started in her garage.