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Christmas - a time to support family owned department stores

Paul Keane

We are just five short weeks from Christmas and without doubt our attention is gradually but seriously turning to what gifts we will buy for our friends and relatives. From a commercial viewpoint, all retailers will be looking forward to a record trading period, and most will hope that the sales generated during the Christmas period will generate enough income to take them through the slower months of the New Year.

"It’s appropriate this year however to remember for a moment the 18th November 1947 when Ballantynes Department store in Christchurch was gutted by fire and some 41 lives were lost."

It was a tragic time for Cantabrians when they had to bury their dead. Certainly it was the worst fire in New Zealand's history and some 70 years later it is appropriate that we reflect on that day and be grateful that a similar event should never happen again.

"Ballantynes as a family department store has been very resilient."

Not only did the family recover from that tragedy and rebuild the business, but they did it again when the recent Christchurch earthquakes had a significant impact on the ability of the store to trade. The ability of a business to recover from a period of adversary is quite remarkable. Maybe if Ballantynes had been a public company the result would have been different. However, because it was privately owned, its determination to continue was very apparent and the culture of the family input is apparent as much in 2017 as it was in 1947.

It also demonstrates the other like privately owned department Stores in New Zealand such as H & J Smith in Invercargill, and Smith and Caughey in Auckland who follow in the same family traditions as Ballantynes. Ironical also that the three are all "families", reconnecting with the past and ensuring the traditional values are maintained. Farmers Trading Company whilst similar have had a range of owners, with the James Pascoe group being the most recent and who are likely to maintain ownership into the future given the Norman family approach to retention of everything they own.

I recall other department stores like James Smith in Wellington, Arthur Barnett in Dunedin and Haywrights in Christchurch. They all had traditional values but succumbed for various reasons. We should pause during the festive season and give a thought or two for those who perished in the Ballantynes fire and be grateful for the new Health and Safety rules that have been introduced to help prevent such events happening again.

As a small country, we should be proud of the family owned department stores still operating and despite the potential competition from Amazon and the like, they continue to offer traditional values and employ hundreds of kiwis along the way. Good reason I suggest that we support them during the festive season.

Sharewatch | Noel Leeming Group

In the second of a series on electronics retailing in New Zealand, we’re looking at Noel Leeming Group.

Noel Leeming Group was listed on the NZX in the 1990s, and merged with Bond & Bond in 1996. The group stayed listed until 2004 (under the name Pacific Retail Group), when it was sold to private equity investors. By that time, the group had sales of around $480 million and profits of $10 million a year.

Noel Leeming Group’s performance under private equity ownership was mediocre at best, and by the time the owners sold it in 2012, the business had had four straight years of losses.

Enter The Warehouse Group, who bought the electronics retailer and have taken it to new heights. The turnaround has been nothing short of stunning. Sales revenue has gone from $610 million to $810 million, even though the Bond & Bond brand has been phased out completely and store numbers have gone from 92 to 77. Operating profits have grown to $19 million.

Of course, those profit margins are still pretty slender by the standards of most retailers. Electronics is a tough market, and the retailers we’ll look at in the next couple of weeks have found it even tougher.

Noel Leeming

In the press

Local media highlights Monday 13 - Monday 20 November 2017


Action taken on Christchurch's 'Dirty 30' list

The number of buildings on the Christchurch City Council's "Dirty 30" list is falling as the council signals plans to widen its focus into the suburbs. In May, the council put pressure on central city property owners to fix up their buildings deemed to be in a poor state of repair. It publicly released a list of more than 30 central city buildings it believed were holding back the rebuild.

(Source: Stuff)

Wellington could be heading for its worst rental crisis ever, property experts warn

Wellington could be staring down the barrel of the worst rental crisis in the city's history, property experts say. Record rent increases are forecast to hit the capital during early-2018, fuelled by predicted growth in government staff working in the CBD, more students attracted by a year's free tertiary education, and sustained falls in available rentals.

(Source: Stuff)

Urban sprawl and the land that keeps on giving

You don't have to be a soil scientist to see that the dirt around Pukekohe is something special. Scratch the surface and you'll discover a rich, deep volcanic soil that has supported generations of market gardeners and played a big role in feeding the nation.

(Source: NZ Herald)

Auckland's new hot-spots revealed: Find your property's value

Individual property valuations are now live, with many expected to see a significant rise in their rateable value as the average RV in the Super City breaks through the million dollar mark for the first time. Today, Council has revealed the value in dollar figures and percentages from its valuations of each of the 548,000 properties in the city.

(Source: NZ Herald)

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