Magazine article New Zealand Management

Managers Abroad: Strength in the NZ Voice; Deb Boswell, a Member of Kea North America, Is General Manager of Icebreaker's Run Specialty Channel

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Managers Abroad: Strength in the NZ Voice; Deb Boswell, a Member of Kea North America, Is General Manager of Icebreaker's Run Specialty Channel

Article excerpt

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?

I wouldn't say I was prompted to seek out work overseas -- more that I wanted to play a role in New Zealand's export success. My father worked for the NZ Government so half my childhood was spent living in Europe. Now I'm following in his footsteps, representing New Zealand in the private sector rather than the public sector.

What is your current role?

I've most recently been challenged with developing a new business channel for Icebreaker -- the Run Specialty channel, through all of the markets we currently sell Icebreaker in globally. Icebreaker has been focused on lifestyle friendly apparel. What we realised is that Icebreaker is also fantastic to run in. So, after researching the market more, we dived into this new channel opportunity and it's starting to take off. We're the only natural fibre story in the running apparel market.

What are its main challenges?

The cost of brand awareness building in the US, Canada and European markets. We have to use that famous Kiwi ingenuity on a daily basis -- but that's what sets us apart from the competition so it's a threat, and in a strange way a competitive advantage. It just means we have to be very focused on where we invest, why and how. It also encourages us to prototype, before rolling out activity to all markets or all retailers.

From a US market perspective, an interesting and new challenge we face is the recent escalation of the consumer drive to buy US made. In 2006-2008 I was involved in marketing NZ wines in the US and being exotic and foreign was an advantage. Now, many of those same discerning customers are looking to support their local economy. It's not a show stopper, but it is another hurdle for Icebreaker and NZ exporters in the US market.

What are the learnings from all of this?

The strength of our New Zealand voice and personality and how staying true to your roots can give you a competitive edge. I've learnt the incredible importance of forming personal relationships with our customers, whether that's hosting them in New Zealand so they can experience the essence of our country and our brand first hand, or getting actively involved in their retail environment. …

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