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Freedom Transforms – Focus On Local Design

Freedom, the iconic Australasian furniture and homewares retailer, is changing, ushering in a retail, brand and product renaissance with an emphasis on championing local design.

Freedom NZ Managing Director Debbie Ridling calls the transformation “a roadmap for change.”

“Much of the furniture sold in New Zealand is not designed locally, and consequently doesn’t reflect the way we live. Our aesthetic is unique, we crave natural materials like timber, glass and stone. So to resonate with both Kiwi’s and Australians, we believe our furniture and homewares need to be designed and curated with local in mind” she asserts.

“We’re not reinventing Freedom but taking it back to its heritage. Freedom’s success has been built on ideas of design, quality and how we live – this is our foundation. We’re updating the brand with a fresher, bolder and more youthful approach. Working collaboratively across both New Zealand and Australia we want to inspire Australasians with a contemporary, stylish, affordable range that suits our homes, proving that beautiful surroundings don’t have to be expensive.”

To spearhead the rebrand, over a year in the planning, freedom appointed Kate Hopwood as Head of Product Design in November 2019. Her impressive set of design credentials includes a pivotal role at Kmart, where she headed the design team for eight years and oversaw the transformation of Kmart’s homewares offering.

Freedom’s rebrand will include start with a streamlined take on its instantly recognisable logo and latest product catalogue with the new look and feel launching across October. A comprehensive renewal of the product range includes 50% new products to be introduced by the end of November, including New Zealand made sofa and dining ranges, with a further 25% by early 2021. In addition, a refresh and rebrand of eight key stores will be complete by year end with the remainder updated in early 2021.

Freedom group Chief Executive Blaine Callard explains that the turnaround was carefully mapped with an intense diagnostic phase that put every aspect of the business under the microscope. Product is king, but this transformation is also retail-led. Currently, 15% of freedom’s sales are online, with digital revenue already experiencing triple digit growth

“Bricks and mortar stores are still at the heart of the strategy, they are the billboards for our brand. Our customers want to experience and feel products, which in interiors is all about texture, weight, balance, comfort – and you can’t experience that with a thumbnail photograph on a website. We believe people still love to shop for their home in store, and so our stores are being refitted with brighter, lighter more sophisticated materials to complement the new product range and make the retail experience even more exciting.”

Having rejuvenated Harvey Norman’s European and Irish & UK operations, Callard, who joined Freedom as CEO just over one year ago, is passionate about the dominance of omni-channel retail.

“Omni-channel is now the clear winning model, particularly in the interiors and home space,” he asserts. “The reality is that superb digital execution coupled with a strong physical presence, will win out every time.”

“We’ve been upgrading and rebuilding our digital capability and platforms over the past year, and part of our repositioning is to set the benchmark once our new site is live. Digital retailing in the interiors space is a highly specialised area, and nobody does it better than the UK retailers – we’ve benchmarked against some of the best home-oriented brands in the world.”

“The events of 2020 have forever changed our relationship with our homes, elevating to new levels our home as-an-expression and extension of who we are. We are now all imbuing our personal spaces with creativity, energy, life, and more personality than ever as we craft a safe space to recharge, reflect, and live.

“Our new normal is a world where our homes have become the centre of our universe, where demand for travel may be years away, and there has been a structural shift in where and how we spend. We think 2021 is the year of the home.”

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