Who we are:

While countless footwear trends and retailers have come and gone over the years, McDiarmids has remained vibrant for over 130 years. As an iconic retailer— now under fourth-generation ownership — building customer loyalty has been key to its longevity.

This time-honoured approach to business has allowed us to thrive against a wave of competition from discounters and e-tailers, and the numerous ups and downs the footwear market has experienced over the years.

Though we may lack the resources of chains and department stores, we have continued to meet the changing needs of our consumer base and continually evolve with the marketplace and find new brands.

The secret to success has been a balance of hard work, dedication and a passion for the shoe business.

Owner: Grant McDiarmid
Roots: In 1879 John Allan , a master shoemaker opened a factory in Thames Street, Oamaru. In 1893, James McDiarmid & Samuel McDonald took over in partnership, followed by James McDiarmid buying out McDonald in 1899. Son Ewart McDiarmid joined the company in 1920 followed by his two Son’s Ken & Niall in 1945 & 1951 respectively. The store relocated in 1928 to the present site.

Customer: Both a working-class and professional clientele
Merchandise: Through the 1960s, adult, children’s and work footwear dominated. The 1970s brought a wave of athletics, with the store stocking New Balance, Nike, Adidas and Asics. "It was a game-changer,” Grant said about the burgeoning category. By the late 1980’s the store changed its product mix again and featured more imported product as import licence restrictions were eased and local manufacturing ceased.

Changes: Department stores, athletic specialty chains and discounters moved into the area, creating competition for independents.

Customer: Mainstream to upscale customers, including skilled and semi -skilled workers.
Merchandise: Timberland, Bresley, New Balance, Skechers, Vans, Merrell, Adidas, Crocs.
Challenges: Over the years, falling rural incomes have impacted the local economy. However, the last decade has seen an influx of industries relating to the dairy sector, tourism & manufacturing providing jobs and opportunities. "Now people from the north are discovering the lifestyle of North Otago with easy commuting and affordable housing ”.

Looking ahead: The store opened an online site three years ago, and it now accounts for 5 to 10 percent of sales. The connection to our customers through social media is evolving as we adapt to change throughout our history.

Secret to success: "We’ve built upon our reputation for quality of merchandise, proven brands and a wide range of footwear for everyone and staying relevant, treat customers the way we want to be treated. We never have pushy sales people”.Grant said.

Grant McDiarmid 4th Generation & Current owner
Ken McDiarmid
1928 - 2001
Ewart McDiarmid - son of James.
1899 - 1967
James McDiarmid - founder.
1871 - 1943