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October 2017 Issue
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Bivouac Outdoor

Wayne Martin, center, with staff at Bivouac’s Tower Junction store in Christchurch. Bivouac won the Chain Retailer of the Year Award. Photo: Dennis Radermacher
Chain Retailer of the Year

A PHD in radioactive isotopes isn’t the standard route to a career in the outdoors, but for Bivouac Outdoor chief executive Wayne Martin, it provided the impetus to adventure into the wilderness.

Martin says he first became hooked by the backcountry while studying at Canterbury University, where he became a chemistry lecturer, and was even the radioactive safety officer for the university.

With a good job and long summer holidays, Martin got involved in tramping, climbing and became president of the university’s caving club.

But he says New Zealand’s nuclear free policy ended his future in the radiation field and after finishing his PHD, he went travelling.

When he returned to New Zealand he started guiding on Ruapehu, taught abseiling courses and worked part time at Auckland outdoor store Alp Sports, where he became a full-time manager.

When outdoor business mogul Bernard Wicht, who later co-founded Kathmandu, opened an Auckland outlet store for his outdoor clothing company, he asked Martin to manage it. The first Bivouac Outdoor store was born.

“He didn’t have retail experience, so he wanted me and a friend to run it,” says Martin.

The company soon expanded to be a general outdoor store and stopped manufacturing clothing. Martin has since bought out his partners to become the sole owner.

Although the business has grown to 11 stores nationwide, he says it still retains the ethos of a small company.

“People call us a chain, but we are more a combination of old-style tramping shops,” he says. “We have a lot more staff on the shop floor than our competitors.”

It’s the fourth time winning the Wilderness Outdoor Award, a record he puts down to focusing on customers who are “serious and enthusiastic about the outdoors”.