Seasalt Cornwall

PHOTO: Seasalt Cornwall. SUPPLIED

Cornish apparel retailer Seasalt Cornwall has made its debut in New Zealand by opening its first international store on Auckland’s North Shore. Known for its use of natural fabrics and hand-crafted prints inspired by Cornwall’s rugged landscape, Seasalt has been expanding its retail presence across Britain and Ireland. The 40-year-old fashion chain, with 70 stores, has been filling vacant retail spaces in the UK as other high street brands downsize due to a challenging retail environment. It has numerous stockists across Britain and Europe, including partnerships with M&S and Next.

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Seasalt unveiled its inaugural international store in Auckland‘s Milford Shopping Centre in September, operated in collaboration with its long-standing business partner, Christchurch department store Ballantynes. Seasalt and Ballantynes have been working together for nearly a decade, with Ballantynes serving as the exclusive distributor of the brand in New Zealand since 2014. The partnership led to the launch of Seasalt’s first international concept space within Ballantynes in 2021.

Notably, it’s uncommon for international retailers to use New Zealand as a starting point for global expansion, as they typically establish a network of stores in Australia or other larger markets first. Ballantynes holds a franchise agreement with Seasalt and plans to open additional partner-owned stores in New Zealand in the coming years, although specific locations and numbers have not been disclosed.

Seasalt, originally known as General Clothing Stores, was founded in Penzance, Cornwall, in 1981, initially selling workwear to local farmers, fishermen, and artists. In recent years, the brand has been transformed by the three sons of its founder, Don Chadwick.

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Paul Hayes, CEO of Seasalt, expressed enthusiasm for the brand’s growth in New Zealand, citing the positive response from customers and the strong partnership with Ballantynes. He believes this deal will build on their existing foundation in the market and expand their global presence while supporting high streets around the world.

Maria O’Halloran, CEO of Ballantynes, stated that her team is enjoying getting to know their new customers and expressed pride in the relationships they build with international suppliers. She believes Seasalt’s products will be well-received in the New Zealand market.

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Retail analyst Chris Wilkison expects Seasalt to find success in the New Zealand market, particularly in the Milford area of Auckland’s North Shore, where there is a significant British expat community. He views the international expansion by Seasalt in partnership with Ballantynes as a fascinating development in the evolution of department stores, highlighting the brand’s relaxed, nautical-themed clothing as appealing to consumers seeking escapist and nostalgic themes, which have gained popularity post-COVID.