International clothing retailer sets up shop in Melbourne amid tough times for local fashion outlets

Boutique US clothing retailer Rag & Bone will open a Melbourne store next month, becoming the latest in a long line of international clothing retailers making homes on Australian shores.

Fairfax reports the retailer will set up shop in the Strand Arcade between Melbourne’s Bourke and Lonsdale Streets, facing Elizabeth Street. The location once housed local fashion brand FAT, which went into voluntary administration two years ago.

Read more: Zara v H&M: Which will win the battle for Australian fast-fashion?

Rag & Bone already has a presence in Australia as its products are stocked by high-end retailer David Jones. Fairfax reports the store’s lease was arranged with Rag & Bone’s Australian licensee, Sydney-based fashion business Incu.

Incu co-founder Brian Wu said the store is likely to open in the middle of March.

“It’s one of our top two or three brands. We want to try and grow our customer base for contemporary designers,” Wu told Fairfax.

The well-known international retailer has 28 dedicated stores internationally, and the Rag & Bone brand is sold in over 700 retail locations.

A tough time for fashion retail

Rag & Bone’s choice to move into the Australian market comes at a rocky time for local fashion retailers, following the recent collapse of Marcs and David Lawrence, alongside suit retailers Herringbone and Rhodes & Beckett.

David Gordon, retail expert and executive director at Kepler Analytics, previously told SmartCompany the big brands that have recently fallen on difficult times have had complex management structures and, in some cases, a disconnect between the brand’s founders and new owners.

“There are a number of those brands that have gone into administration, that is mainly due to not bad management but due to incorrect management structures,” Gordon said.

“That vision and energy and commitment is lacking when they bring in so-called professional management teams.”

Meanwhile, retail expert Brian Walker has predicted many of Deloitte’s Top 100 retailers will eventually touch down in Australia, making it more important than ever that smaller operators are “sharper and fitter”.

“In the next three to five years, the vast majority of the top 100 retailers will have a bricks-and-mortar presence in Australia,” Walker said.

“Retailers have to focus on their operating strategy and carefully consider their uniqueness. You have to have a point of difference.”

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