Fashion store owner passing mantle on to ‘next generation’

Neil Gaudin outside Void Clothing, in Albion Place, on one of his final days in the store. PHOTO:...
Neil Gaudin outside Void Clothing, in Albion Place, on one of his final days in the store. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Neil Gaudin has decided it is time the "next generation" in fashion takes over.

After 25 years as the owner of fashion store Void Clothing, in Albion Place, Dunedin, last week he handed the keys over to its new owners — Debbie and Russell Lundy. The 59-year-old, who was born and bred in Dunedin, is an accountant by profession and bought Void Clothing, which opened in 1994, from a friend in 1997.

"And we’ve been here ever since," he said.

For about the first 15 years, Mr Gaudin employed managers while he continued to work full time, but has worked on the shop floor for the remainder of the time.

His accountancy background did come in handy for the administrative side of running the business, he said.

He had been thinking about his retirement plan and selling the store to the "next generation" for a while.

During his time in the store, he worked with Otago Polytechnic fashion students for more than 10 years on a retail and production project — whereby the students would design clothes that fitted the store.

He had also spoken out multiple times about the negative effects the Dunedin City Council’s George St development could have on local retailers in the area.

"The impact of that is yet to be felt."

Asked about a highlight of his time in the store, Mr Gaudin said it was the customers’ dedication to the store.

"It has been the friendly and committed customers which have made it the most enjoyable."

Despite the many challenges, Void Clothing had done "OK" throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Gaudin said.

The first lockdown two years ago was "very hard to fathom", but thanks to Government support, such as the wage subsidy, and rent relief the business was able to pull through.

He described that lockdown as a "good holiday", particularly because suppliers held all deliveries for a certain time.

"We didn’t have any bills and we didn’t have any income, so it was just limbo land."

The second lockdown, in August last year, was a "little bit more challenging" because the store had product on its way.

The biggest change in retail over the past 25 years was the shift to online shopping, Mr Gaudin said.

Between 2015 and 2018, there was a "major shift" in buying habits.

However, after the Covid-19 lockdowns people wanted to return to stores for the social experience, he said.

"Now it seems to be a mixture of both."

His last official day as owner of the store had been on Thursday and he was now helping during a 10-day transition period.

He admitted leaving the store was hard — "and, it feels very odd" — but the timing was right.

Asked what he planned to do after the transition period, Mr Gaudin said — "not a lot at all".

"I’ve loved every minute of it, but I’m excited for what’s next."



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