By now you’ve probably read about, seen updates, or maybe visited our new Pitt Street Flagship store. I’ve been so pleased with the response from our audience as well as the welcome from the Karangahape Road community and the new visitors we’ve met. With the feedback we’d received stacking up with the decision making process, I realised we hadn't talked about the reasoning for the move and thought this may be of interest.
We had been working towards this move since the tail end of last year, knowing that the lease on the High Street premises would conclude in July 2020. It was decided that it was time for us to make a move, having looked around for a new space for over six months, the lockdown period gave us some well timed perspective to weigh up our business plan with a bit of distance that you don’t often get while in the weeds of daily work. It was reassuring to give thought to this and realise that we were still as much or more committed to physical retail and making this move, as well this time to think about what Checks would feel like in a new location and the way the city is shaping and evolving. Having a bricks and mortar space to experience the brand and engage with our community is an important part of the business model, we seek to do something different with Checks and getting to experience our product offering, service style and store design and feeling is the best way to communicate this.
The big factor around moving from our former High Street location was to increase visibility from the hidden secret feeling of the basement location to a highly discoverable street front presence in a busy neighbourhood. The other significant factor is that we must maintain a space that housed our entire business operations out of one building, with the whole team working together in collaboration. The retail space being supported by on-site warehousing and our design and content studio. We quickly realised all of these things couldn’t be achieved while remaining on High Street. So upon pondering other areas of Auckland, I realised I was spending a lot of my personal time in the K Rd area. Leaving the workday downtown, going to restaurants in the evening, or out to venues for events and cafes on the weekend.
Simultaneously we had conversations with customers and despite the prestigious High Street location they were visiting us as a destination due to all the challenges of accessing the downtown area. Conversely, uptown was already in our customers' routine and in fact we may be able to see them a bit more often, as their lifestyle was similar to ours. Some had studios in one of the shared spaces, some lived in an apartment nearby, and when we were out and about we’d bump into friends constantly. The knock on the K Rd area in a retail sense had typically been that it was more of a low price op-shop destination and would the shoppers visiting be willing to pay our higher price points. But we felt confident that being more accessible to our existing audience would pay dividends, so far that has held true with people stopping by multiple times a week and happily telling us they no longer have a reason to head downtown...
I also felt that in this environment where there were less ‘like’ businesses that we could really plant a flag and be the unique Checks that we set out to be and have worked towards over the past three years. When originally starting Checks, I felt our store had to be on High Street, I had worked in that area for close to ten years and it had become a hub for streetwear businesses. But I had always longed for Checks to be more than any one thing, a bit hard to sum up or put in a box. Auckland city had also changed a lot in the three years since we had started, and K Road in particular is constantly changing, good or bad it has been evolving rapidly. With the City Rail Link developments, this will only be amplified as it remains a significant hub for people moving through the city. With a concerned desire form the people that have been a part of the fabric of the area for a long time that the street retains its uniqueness, we hope to give understanding to the context and ecosystem it inhabits whilst the street changes. Hopefully in whatever we do our authenticity endears us to our new neighbors, the warm welcome so far has been the best start to this new chapter.
Once the call was made it was a matter of finding the perfect space, to make a move it had to tick all the boxes. I looked at the Pitt Street site back in December and knew it could be the one, however, there was someone else ahead of us in the queue. It also needed significant refurbishment but we could see the potential. After finally giving up all hope having been told the other party was taking it earlier in the year, I got a call about two months ago saying it had fallen through and did we want it. In the time since first looking at it, the landlord had also commenced work renovating the building. That felt like the ultimate signal that all this thinking was being backed up by a bit of destiny.