Aussie icon collapses as border closure leaves $500k debt

An iconic Australian retailer based in the heart of Brisbane's CBD has collapsed into liquidation after the closure of international borders eliminated its largest customer base.

UGG & Emu, a long-time tenant in the Queen Street Mall, was placed into liquidation this week after closing its doors on Sunday owing over half a million dollars.

The Australian retailer sold premium and casual sheepskin footwear primarily to international tourists.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of international borders since March 20 led to a huge collapse in sales and prompted director Kihana Joung to put the company in liquidation on Monday.

Kendall Jenner wearing UGG boots
Kendall Jenner wearing UGG boots

Ms Joung could not be contacted for comment.

The closure of the Brisbane store, operated by parent company Kynd Co Pty Ltd, does not affect UGG's Sydney or international sites, which are owned by unrelated companies.

UGG & Emu Brisbane collapsed owing secured creditors $169,000 and unsecured creditors $338,636.

Worrells Solvency and Forensic Accountants Partner Nikhil Khatri, who is now in control of the company, is investigating its financial affairs ahead of the first meeting of creditors.

He said the director advised that COVID-19 and the subsequent international border closures led to a decline in sales "as the business' primary customer base was international tourists".

UGG was founded in California in 1978 by Australian surfers Brian Smith and Doug Jensen.

It launched as an Australian business before Mr Jensen exited and Mr Smith's business was acquired by US footwear designer Deckers Brands in 1995.

In 2000 the brand's popularity reached new heights when talk show host Oprah Winfrey declared they were one of her "favourite things".

The boot has since been worn by Hollywood's A-list celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker.

In 2006 UGG opened its first shopfront store in New York.

Mr Khatri said UGG & Emu would not be the last virus-related collapse.

"I expect to see further insolvencies due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy not only in the retail or hospitality industry but more broadly as the government and stakeholder support and temporary insolvency relief starts to unwind," he said.

Originally published as Aussie icon collapses as border closure leaves $500k debt