Store closures and new openings: Retail chain Pricewise ‘in reset mode’

Discount beauty and personal care goods retailer Pricewise has shut six stores and is gearing up to open other larger sites as part of its “reset” and upcoming rebranding.

The chain, rescued by Smith’s City and Jucy Group owner Colin Neal of Polar Capital, has recently closed a string of stores, including in Albany Mega Centre, LynnMall, The Base in Hamilton, Westfield St Lukes and Sylvia Park shopping centres.

It has new stores set to open in Fraser Cove shopping centre in Tauranga, one in Whakatāne and a scheduled store relocation to an undisclosed site over the next six weeks.

Craig Robertson, shareholder and chief executive of Pricewise, said the closures came in part due to a “combination of reasons”, including questionable viability due to locations in mall sites, some stores being too small and leases coming to an end.

The eight-store retail chain is actively looking for retail space in the regions, instead of a sole focus on representation in the main centres.

“We’re in a space between exiting some of the malls where it’s not viable to carry on trading and moving into locations where it is more viable,” Robertson told the Herald.

“We are effectively in what I would call a reset mode. We’re just in the process of signing some additional leases in other locations and are repositioning the platform as to where the [new] stores will be located.”

Robertson said there was a possibility of further Pricewise store closures and relocations in the months ahead.

Outside of the three it had planned to open through April and May, it was also looking at other potential future sites in the pipeline, he said.

The relocating stores were moving into new, larger sites, he said. It was also focused on its e-commerce store.

The retailer is currently working on a new layout for its stores and in coming weeks will unveil its newly designed branding. The owl logo and its typical red and white signs will “be no longer”, Robertson said.

“We’re refreshing the business.”

While critical mass of bricks and mortar stores was important, to be successful in the market retailers also needed to leverage their e-commerce capabilities, Robertson said.

“You’ve got to have a mixture of a bricks and mortar solution supporting your online environment, but it comes down to the right location and the right offering that you can present to your customers.

“We’re compromised in some of our mall stores because they are too small.”

Robertson said Pricewise was not being squeezed by rival Chemist Warehouse, and that the retailer was confident about its place and future in the market.

“A lot of our pricing that we have is actually better than Chemist Warehouse and that’s what we focus on; providing great prices on brands that people know and trust.

“It’s about getting the right customer experience and to do that we need slightly bigger stores and the right locations. People want to drive up to a retail store, be able to park close by, come in and get what they want and then go about their business, and that’s what we’re trying to do with these relocations.”

Pricewise was acquired by Polar Capital in September 2020 for $2.3 million. The retail chain sold for $1.45m while its distribution channel Zenith Distribution sold for $863,000.

At the time it had 16 retail stores operating across the country.

Previously, Pricewise and importer Zenith Distribution together turned over about $12m a year.

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