Apparel sat down with Vere Sharma, the managing director of De Vere Investments, to talk about acquiring Kiwi menswear brand Meccano, the company’s ethos, and discuss what’s ahead.

De Vere Investments formed almost 30 years ago, a partnership between husband and wife team Vere and Christine Sharma to supply textiles and manufactured goods to businesses throughout New Zealand and overseas. The business kicked off in the family home’s front lounge in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore. It started off as an agency business between suppliers and customers.

After starting off his career as an accountant, Vere has now been in the textile industry for 40 years. He said it just fell into place.

“I wanted to travel internationally, and that came with the territory,” Vere said.

After being based in the Devonport house for 15 months, the Sharma’s set up office in Devonport before moving to Takapuna in various offices. Seven years ago they came to the city side.

De Vere then evolved into the importation of garments before moving into wholesale with many premier New Zealand stores. The company used to supply to womenswear label Ruby and bought the brand in 2008. Ruby was De Vere’s first foray into retail.

“It’s very challenging going wholesale to retail; it’s quite a different business. Retail is all about the day. Wholesale is about getting an order from the customer and waiting for goods to be shipped and delivered.”

De Vere has always had a leaning towards menswear, and Meccano was a De Vere customer. Hence, the acquisition of Meccano, effective March 30, was a natural move for the business. Founded by Hamilton business partners Dai and Cheryl Endicott-Davies, who started the family-owned and operated business in 1993, Meccano is a multi-store retail chain which specialises in high-quality, on-trend, contemporary and everyday menswear.

“After learning a little bit of the retail model through Ruby at a micro level it gave an opportunity to look at a bigger scale of Meccano’s. The purchase of Meccano was purely evolution.”

Vere said buying Meccano was a logical move for De Vere, and that he was looking forward to continuing to build the Meccano brand, particularly its online offering. The two companies have a well-established working relationship of more than ten years, making for a seamless transition into new ownership for Meccano staff and customers.

The purchase has increased De Vere’s staff numbers to more than 130, with 25 retail outlets across New Zealand.
“We saw it [acquiring Meccano] as an opportunity where we could leverage what had been locked away for quite a while. If you've got a good supply, you can always get a good customer.

“The beauty about Meccano is it crosses a lot of buying opportunities. We can open stores quickly. Ruby has a very strong online presence. The next strategy is to get Meccano up to scale online; communicating to our customer through the likes of Instagram.”

Vere said business would continue as normal with the exception of Meccano’s head office, which has moved from Hamilton to the Auckland head office alongside the De Vere and Ruby teams. Staff will remain at Meccano’s 15 outlets spanning from Auckland to Dunedin.

De Vere also recently opened Modern Manners in St Kevin’s Arcade on Auckland’s Karangahape Road.

“One of the things I’ve always been quite strong on is to look for opportunities. I have always believed in good partnerships. Essentially as a wholesaler, we've evolved. My business ethos is you've got to bring things to the table. I've always believed in being design-led as opposed to being a design-follower. We will take that to the retail model as well.”

Vere said the company focuses on four P’s; product, position, price and promotion. He said bricks and mortar go hand in hand with online.

“They are equally as important. People want to touch and feel things, and people also get satisfaction and enjoyment out of that. I’ve always believed in human interaction, going and buying coffees as opposed to making them at home. If you've got online, then bricks and mortar fall nicely around it well. They [Meccano] have already got bricks and mortar; it's now about tying up an online presence to those stores.”

A lot of design inspiration is done online and through travel to places such as Europe, the United States, and Australia. Vere said the company doesn’t strictly follow trends.

“I’ve always believed in a design-led model, and having something that has a unique selling point.

I’m lucky enough to have an eye for product. I’ve surrounded myself with people who have had a very good eye.”
Vere said he believes in surrounding the company with good business people.

“We lead and we surround ourselves with people who understand where we’re going. It’s all the pieces that make up a good supply model.”

Looking ahead, Vere said there’s lots of excitement, lots of hard work and lots of opportunities, and that De Vere continues to listen and grow.

“Growth is about repositioning as well. It’s about getting aesthetics right, and then building on that aesthetic. De Vere’s is a vehicle now to collaborate with a whole lot of things. We live in a very challenging environment. We live in a very small populated environment.

“The neat thing about New Zealand is most people here are looking for some uniqueness; New Zealand is used as a testing ground for a lot of international companies.”Vere said the Meccano quality is high, and De Vere wants to maintain those high standards.

“There's a bunch of menswear retailers, but Meccano has its own tune sheet. That's an area that we will continue to develop, its uniqueness. Although we’re going to be a fashion proposition, we’re still catering for the New Zealand guy.

“People in New Zealand care about what they look like, and particularly guys are becoming far savvier in their shopping. Being dressed well is part of the overall look. People want to dress up a bit more these days.

“But they’re savvy in their shopping too.”