Sei Oriana – gateway for Samoan, Pacific products in NZ

A new retail outlet in Mangere could potentially become a gateway for increased trade in Samoan exports to New Zealand.

Fiti Leung Wai (right) at the Sei Oriana Gift Shop soon after its opening in Mangere, Auckland.
Fiti Leung Wai (right) at the Sei Oriana Gift Shop soon after its opening in Mangere, Auckland.

Samoa Stationery and Books (SSAB) has just opened its first New Zealand branch in Mangere called Sei Oriana Gift Shop. The store is part of a chain of five sales outlets in Samoa and American Samoa owned by Fiti and her husband Aumua Ming Leung Wai. SSAB sells stationery, books, Samoan language books, products, whiteware and small appliances.

Mrs Leung Wai was the 2015 Recipient of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Fellowship Award. Part of the prize was a trip to New Zealand to accept the award from the Prime Minister and meet with the Samoan and Pacific business communities.

During her visit in May 2015, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) organised a business roundtable where Mrs Leung Wai learned of some potential retail space available once the new Samoa Government House opened in Mangere. PT&I also provided Mrs Leung Wai with information about expanding her business to New Zealand.

Mrs Leung Wai took the idea and ran with it. “I don’t think they thought I would do it, but I’m a doer,” she said. She visited the location several times and sent in an Expression of Interest to the Government of Samoa.

The outlet has an impressive shopfront in one of Auckland's newest commercial developments.
The outlet has an impressive shopfront in one of Auckland’s newest commercial developments.

Although there were some challenges along the way she says she prayed if indeed it was the right thing to do.  But her prayers were answered and she pushed on, her plans coming to fruition just 18 months later.

Pacific Periscope visited the Sei Oriana grand opening on Friday, 18 October. At the inauguration the night before, Mrs Leung Wai graciously acknowledged several organisations including PT&I’s role in the process of setting up the new establishment in Auckland.

On opening day, the shop was full of delighted customers keen to buy authentic Samoan and Pacific Island made products. A 40ft shipping container was used to bring products from at least 19 different suppliers listed on the promotional brochure as well as Pacific Island suppliers from Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands and Hawaii.

Mrs Leung Wai said many products come from villages in Samoa. But they wanted to raise the quality of products going as far as returning products that failed to meet the high quality required.

“Our main focus is to help our local entrepreneurs to reach international standards,” Mrs Leung Wai said. She is also prepared to persevere with suppliers to make sure they bring their products up to the level needed for export.

rsz_img_6059“You can’t get better at something if you don’t repeat doing it,” she said.

Initially, Mrs Leung Wai wanted just one of the four retail spaces but on seeing the actual space, changed her mind and took two areas. It was a “very classy” space and she wanted a shop befitting its position on the ground level of the Samoa Government House.

The location is at the crossroads of the main trunk highway, south to Auckland’s international and domestic airport, a gateway into Auckland City and through to the west. The perfect launch pad for Pacific island products to reach a bigger local and tourist market.

Mrs Leung Wai hopes to provide a “gateway for all our local businesses.”

But most of all she wants to showcase the diverse talent she knows remains largely untapped in Samoa. The carvers, seamstresses, handicraft producers are just some from a large pool of talented people in Samoa. The village of Fagaloa, for example produces the distinctive Tanoa (carved) wooden bowls that are being sold in-store.

rsz_img_6051With Christmas on the horizon, the opening is well timed, which is great news for around 16 of Samoa’s most well-known clothing brands. These include well-known fashion names such as Mena and Janet’s Galu and Alii brands representing high-quality Pacific clothing range for men and women.

Local beauty brands from Misiluki, Mailelani, Women in Business Development and Pure Fiji are also available in store. In addition, they also offer top of the range black pearl jewellery from Hawaii, Tahiti and the Cook Islands, the products each personally selected by Mrs Leung Wai herself.

Mrs Leung Wai was full of praise for the Samoa Government representatives, Samoa Consul-General Faaolotoai Reupena Pogi and Samoa Trade Commissioner Fonoti Lafita’i Fuata’i.

“They were really helpful and supportive in keeping us updated on what was happening,” Mrs Leung Wai said. “The Samoa Government was also very happy with having all the services, consulate and the shop all together. “It all fits together,” she said.

PT&I is currently working with Sei Oriana to help identify Pacific Island suppliers that can consistently supply high-quality products of interest to the New Zealand market.

For more information please email Joe Fuavao, PT&I  Trade Development Manager at joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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