When Hamish and Jenny Cochran introduced telemark skiing to New Zealand in 1984 under the umbrella of Nevada Sport they launched a business relationship with the US Merrell footwear brand spanning 35 years.
Nevada Sport was set up in 1978 by Hamish and Ross Ewington as a specialist ski product importer and distributor and when Ross moved to Australia in 1981 Jenny joined the company.
“When we brought in telemark skiing we also imported Merrell telemark boots,” says Hamish. “At the time all footwear, except ski boots, was under licence to protect the New Zealand industry and it wasn’t until it was removed about 1993 that we were able to start importing Merrell hiking boots.”
The brand has a fascinating history which aligns well with Nevada Sport’s pioneering spirit.
“It all began in 1981 when Randy Merrell who was a custom cowboy boot maker based in Utah decided to try and make himself some hiking boots as he couldn’t find anything that suited him. They were a success and he quickly gained a reputation for creating boots that were the perfect fit.”
Enter ski and outdoor enthusiasts Clark Matis and John Schweizer who were searching for the perfect hiking boot and discovered Randy Merrell.
“The three joined forces and in 1982 the Merrell boot company was formed,” says Hamish. “They launched the company with the original Wilderness boot which, with its simple, comfortable fit revolutionised hiking.”
Nevada Sport is the longest standing distributor worldwide and now has seven Merrell stores, including Let’s Get Outside in Queenstown, and distributes to over 200 stores throughout New Zealand.
In 1997 Merrell was bought by Wolverine World Wide, one of the largest footwear specialists in the world and sales exploded into more than 100 countries.
“A year later the company introduced a new After Sport footwear category and produced the Jungle Moc which was the start of their foray into the casual, lifestyle footwear market. Twenty years on the Jungle Moc is still a top seller for us.”
Hamish says Merrell goes to extraordinary lengths to understand and anticipate what people want in their footwear both for lifestyle and adventuring.
“The company has always pushed the design boundaries and continues to innovate with lighter, faster, more supportive durable and versatile designs. Many designs merge performance with lifestyle and Merrell footwear is just as likely to be seen in airports and cafés as it is on mountain tops.”
Nevada Sport has recently passed into the hands of the second generation with Heidi Cochran and sister Elle Steans and her husband David at the helm.
“This has been very much a family business and ironically the girls’ great-great-grandfather, who ran a merchant business in New Zealand in the 1860s, was probably the first importer of boots into New Zealand,” says company founder Hamish Cochran. “The wheel has come full circle and we are very excited by what we have achieved over the last 40 years.”
The company not only distributes Merrell footwear and clothing but also introduced Patagonia apparel into New Zealand and is launching an exciting new footwear brand Wolverine, which was founded in 1883 and is also owned by Wolverine World Wide.
“We sell what we believe in and stand behind the products 100 per cent. We uphold customer service and represent our principal companies in New Zealand to a degree that makes us very proud.”