Retail is one of the most competitive industries to be in, not just locally but globally. There has been a lot of commentary lately about the invasion of international retail brands into Australia.

No less than ten major global brands have entered that market in the last 18 months, including: Spain's ZARA, Britain's TOPSHOP, Sweden's H&M, and the US Williams Sonoma's POTTERY BARN

Some see this development as providing a breath of fresh air for the retail landscape. Others are concerned about intensified competition. One thing most retailers would agree on, is that it represents both a challenge and an opportunity for local players. Since New Zealand has close trading ties with Australia, you can expect us to be hit next - possibly not on the same scale, but in some way. Are you prepared to compete with international retailers?

Here are six tips to help you prepare for an onslaught of global retail brands entering your local market:

  1. Register your trade mark. Make sure your brand is registered as a trade mark for the goods and services that you offer your customers. Having a registration gives you the exclusive right to use your trade mark in the country or countries within which you have registered for your goods and services. Think about your brand in terms of words and logos - each may be registered separately if they meet the criteria.
  2. If you have a trade mark, make sure it's being used. Use your brand as a trade mark to avoid someone challenging you for the rights based on 'non-use'. If you've registered it but haven't used it, you are vulnerable to someone else challenging you so they can use it.
  3. Ensure your brand name is specific to your goods and services. Differentiate your brand with the description of the goods and services that you offer to avoid it becoming generic and vulnerable to challenge. For example 'CORINNE footwear and hosiery' is specific to your brand, whereas 'Corinne's products' is not.
  4. Get online - think beyond brick and mortar. What are you doing online? Register for your domain name if you haven't yet. And ensure your online presence accurately reflects your branding. When choosing a domain name, make sure you use the same name for your website.  Many retailers choose a different domain name for their online presence - often adding words like 'the' and 'NZ's' or other meaningless words to their brand making it very hard for customers to find you. Keep it simple - align your brand with your domain name.  For example if my store was called Corinne, my website should be found at www.corinne.co.nz.
  5. Define your market position. Do you use a positioning tagline? Does it define every decision you make? By using a positioning tagline, you can differentiate yourself from competitors.  Some retailers do this very successfully, examples include:
  • Walmart - Save Money. Live Better.
  • H&M - Fashion and quality at the best price.
  • L V Martin & Son - It's the putting right that counts.
  • The Warehouse - Where everyone gets a bargain.

Did you know you can register positioning lines as a trade mark if they meet the criteria? By registering a positioning line, you get a leg up on your competitors, and can help your customers easily identify with your brand.

  1. Copyright in your logo. If your brand includes a logo, do you own the copyright? Whether you created it by yourself or used a graphic designer, you need to ensure you own the copyright in the logo. By ensuring you own the copyright, you protect your brand and visual identity. This means you have a basis to object if someone tries to knock it off, which is a sad but true reality in retail - knock offs are rampant.

While the entry of new players into a market is understandably greeted warily, healthy competition can create opportunities to grow your brand. To get ready for newcomers to the New Zealand market, take steps now to ensure that your house is in order. Your intellectual property advisor can help you with many of these steps to get prepared and ensure your brand is protected.

An edited version of this article appeared in the May 2014 issue of NZ Retail.