Barkers is celebrating 40 years since Ray Barker opened his first store on Aucklands High Street.
In 1967, at the age of nineteen, Ray went to the UK on his OE.
His first job in London was with Burton Tailoring, a made-to-measure clothing company. He handed in his resignation in the January of 1972, and by April he was the 25-year-old founder of Barkers.
His first store was originally called Raymond’s, on the corner of High and Victoria Street. Throughout the first couple of decades, the Barkers stores in the inner city of Auckland acquired a cult status, with Friday nights the key night to shop – the 200 Queen St store regularly saw huge queues developing for the 14 changing rooms, often out the door.
In the late '70s, Ray Barker banded together with the Record Warehouse on Vulcan Lane to thumb their noses at the laws against weekend trading. Every Saturday, the Barkers store would defiantly open their doors to the masses, proving so popular the the fines hardly acted as a deterrent. Other retailers gradually joined the rebellion, and before a year had passed the laws had been changed to allow weekend trading.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, all Auckland-based staff would go out in the central city for a steak dinner and drinks every Friday night – entirely funded by management. Their gatherings were notorious, and so rowdy that touring bands like The Doobie Brothers would join in when they encountered them out on the town. Needless to say, staff turnover was virtually nil.
The ‘90s saw Barkers dominate local streetwear with their signature baggy, branded track pants. More than 50,000 pairs sold through the mid-'90s for $110 – what was then a fairly serious pricepoint. The local Streetwise factory had to operate through the night to keep up with demand as the iconic Barkers trackies became a Kiwi phenomenon.