The world seemed a much bigger place when Bivouac opened its foundation store in Christchurch.
The year was 1986, and outdoor gear was hard to come by in New Zealand.
CEO Wayne Martin remembers there being just one man in Auckland who sold carabiners – the idea of a one-stop-shop for outdoor gear was almost unheard of.
Stores were computerless, run on pen and paper, and new products had to be picked up at international trade shows in Europe or the US.
Today, Bivouac has 10 stores and one outlet shop open across New Zealand and stocks dozens of world-class outdoor brands, but, for all that has changed, Martin says, “the basics are still the same”.
“You still have to ask customers what they want, what they want to use it for, and give advice on the product,” he says.
And Bivouac is doing that well – this year marks the fifth time Bivouac has won the chain retailer category, and Martin is “very pleased” to retain the title.
“The competition has become a lot stronger in New Zealand, so I don’t take it for granted,” he says.
“We’re lucky that our core customers are outdoors people – the same people who buy Wilderness magazine.”
Martin says the constantly improving weight and comfort of products has been the biggest trend he’s noticed during his time in the industry.
“In my day, we piled up leaves and grass and slept on that. Then came the first sleeping mats, then the Therm-a-Rest, and now there are plenty of thick and comfortable choices – people are a lot more comfortable these days,” he said.
As for Bivouac’s future, Martin says he has no plans to open stores across the ditch any time soon – but he is keen to keep winning the Wilderness Outdoor Awards.
Runner up: Macpac