River Island launches Australian site as location scouts begin hunting

Popular British retailer River Island is launching a new Australia-specific website today, the next step in its entrance to the Australian market.

Australian shoppers have been able to purchase River Island products through the store’s main website since November 2011 and via online retailers ASOS and ShopStyle, but this is the first time a specific site tailored to Australian consumers will be accessible.

The decision to open a site pre-empts location scouts searching for physical store locations – and comes alongside a huge influx of international retailers into the Australian market.

Retail Doctor Group chief executive Brian Walker told SmartCompany Australian retailers which are unable to compete should be nervous about the recent flood of international brands into the market.

“It is an ongoing opportunity and challenge for domestic retailers. It’s a good thing for the retail environment, Australian consumers, tourism and employment – it makes things more interesting,” he says.

River Island’s marketing director Josie Roscop told SmartCompany the new site will be designed to match the Australian seasons.

“We will have seasonal specific products and this will be reflected in how we merchandise the site. We’ve thought about the messaging on our home page and the emails will be appropriate for the season and advertise theses specific products.

Roscop says River Island intends to research what Australian customers react to most and use this information to design products tailored for Australians. New products will be available weekly – a testament to the company’s design and production pipeline.

“We see this as really key to the brand because our consumers like to browse both online and in-store often and we feel it’s important to keep our products fresh.

During 2012 River Island entered into a partnership with Australian company Retail Apparel Group, which owns brands such as Tarocash and YD.

The deal was said to be three years in the making and would have seen River Island set up shop in Australia in 2014, but it came to an end earlier this year with the two parties unable to agree on financial terms.

Roscop says Australia became a key destination for expansion after it started shipping here in 2011 and Australia become one of its biggest international markets.

British retailers have targeted Australia before – ASOS ships several jet loads of product to Australian shores every week.

This new website is a stepping stone for the brand, allowing River Island to conduct consumer research while it searches for an appropriate location to open its own physical store.

“We’ve been assessing the Australian market for some time and a lot of the senior team have been down here and we think it will be great opportunity for River Island, we’ve been searching for property options.

“We hope to have a store here soon, but with property it’s always a hard one and we won’t open a store until we find the right site, a store is a big investment,” Roscop says.

River Island offers price-conscious fashion to young consumers and rivals brands such as Top Shop, Zara and H&M.

The company is just one of many international retailers to target Australia recently, as last week Urban Outfitters Europe announced it’s now shipping to Australia.

 

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