National Geographic stores are coming to Australia, promising new adventure apparel in a crowded domestic market

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Clothing retailer Alquemie Group has revealed plans to open National Geographic branded stores across Australia and New Zealand, but retail experts say the “iconic” brand will face stiff competition from local business.

Inside Retail reports Alquemie Group, the ACTA Capital-backed business behind General Pants, SurfStitch, and Australia’s LEGO-certified storefronts, plans to operate National Geographic storefronts across the country.

While National Geographic is best known for its legendary magazine, detailing scientific discoveries and cultural expeditions across the globe, its local storefronts appear positioned to compete with outdoors-focused retailers like Kathmandu, MacPac, and Anaconda.

National Geographic, an American brand, is separate to Australian Geographic, which closed its retail operations in 2016.

It already runs an apparel operation in South Korea, where its goods challenge existing global brands like The North Face and Arc’teryx.

In a statement provided to Inside Retail, Richard Facioni, ACTA Capital CEO, said the National Geographic acquisition was part of its plan to delve into “exciting new goods across apparel, accessories and adventure travel”.

An e-commerce channel is also in the works, the publication said.

The brand could “have an uphill battle to gain meaningful market share, particularly in the short term”, says Dr Louise Grimmer, senior lecturer in retail marketing at the University of Tasmania.

Existing adventure retail brands flourished through COVID-19 lockdowns, as Australians sought local alternatives to overseas holidays.

Super Retail Group, which owns apparel and equipment retailer MacPac and camping and fishing store BCF, booked $1.7 billion in sales in the first half of FY22.

However, the National Geographic’s “iconic global brand” could help its cut-through for local consumers, says Professor Gary Mortimer, retail expert and academic at Queensland University of Technology.

“I think Australian consumers are certainly more aligned to outdoor activities, camping, hiking, and getting out in the open spaces,” he told SmartCompany.

“National Geographic certainly aligns itself to that sort of adventure-wear, adventure retailing, and tourism to some extent, so I think it will really resonate well with Australian consumers.”

Residual concerns over international travel may drive further interest in domestic camping and adventure spending, he added.

“I think we’re still going to see cautious travelers, focusing on domestic holidays,” Mortimer said. “And that might take the form of hiking the Outback, north Queensland, the Northern Territory.”

Beyond existing competition, the potential for the rising cost of living to bite into holiday expenditure could pose a challenge for new retail experiences.

“There is only so much disposable income to go around so this will be a challenging launch for National Geographic to get a real foothold in the ANZ market,” Grimmer said. “It will be fascinating to see how this actually goes for the brand.”

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