Long-standing retailers have had to change and adapt the way they do business over the decades in order to stay afloat. In a special feature celebrating longevity in these though times, Zoe Hunter speaks to some of Rotorua's most enduring retailers about how they've managed to stand the test of time.
For Rotorua's Gaby West McLeods Booksellers has become the fabric of her life.
West used to visit the historic bookshop as a child and has been the assistant manager of the store for the last four years.
"Before that, I had been coming here as a child. Mum has been a customer for most of her adult life so it's part of my life for sure too."
This year marks 76 years since the bookshop was established in 1944.
"For me, it was just a wondrous place where my mum would bring me in and we would get to choose a book and it just felt very special.
"It just becomes a fabric of your life I guess, with a really lovely homely atmosphere too."
Arthur Coates opened the original shop, A. T. Coates Ltd, in Rotorua in 1896 on Fenton St before it moved to Tutanekai St after World War I.
Coates retired in 1943, after 47 years of business, and sold the shop to Ken McLeod who changed the name to McLeods Booksellers.
In 1968, McLeod sold the bookshop to Trevor Thorp. Thorp's son David joined the business in the 1980s and still runs it today with his wife Lynne Jones on Pukuatua St.
West said the shop has survived the decades "certainly without great struggle".
"I speak on behalf of the owner Dave and Lynne when I say that at times it has been incredibly hard to fight against big business and rents and rising costs."
But despite the introduction of e-books, internet and Kindles, West said there was nothing like reading a physical book.
"A book is a family treasure sometimes and they get passed on. Books have this beautiful legacy about them that is so special."
The art of bookselling, West said, was knowing the right stock to have in store at the right time.
"It's about balancing what you want to have in the shop meets what your customers want. For Dave, a really big part of the McLeods story is growing the Māori book collection," she said.
"We have stuck steadfastly to what we believe ..."
Not forgetting "why you are here" was something to also stay true to, she said.
"The 'why' is our customers. If they are loving what you are doing then you can't go wrong.
"And don't compromise on what you believe in and what you want your business to look like. People would be so sad if we changed who we were after all this time."
Pollards Mens Apparel
Lunching with famed French-Italian fashion designer Pierre Cardin was a highlight of Elliot Pollard's 40-year career in menswear.
Pollards Mens Apparel stocked a lot of Pierre Cardin at the time when his clothing first came on the market.
"Many other designers were for the rich and the famous and the royal. But Cardin was the people's designer."
Elliot said Cardin visited New Zealand to launch his product and Elliot was invited to have lunch with the designer at Moose Lodge Estate.
"I remember that day really well. It was a beautiful day out at Rotoiti. We lived on a block of land at that stage and after having this lunch and meeting this famous fellow I ended up in the back paddock fixing a fence," he said with a laugh.
"I found it quite humbling because he was such a quiet reserved gentleman, for his fame he wasn't out there."
Another highlight was winning a trip to the world fashion fair in Las Vegas for a week in a national menswear competition. "That was unbelievable."
Elliot was just 33 years old when he first opened the doors to Pollards Mens Apparel in August 1980.
"The support we got from suppliers as a young guy going into business was phenomenal."
Starting off in menswear at age 16, Elliot later managed a store opposite where Pollards stands today before finding an empty store on Eruera St, which he leased and fitted out.
Elliot and his son Ryan Pollard have now been in the store on Tutanekai St for about 10 years.
In 40 years of retail, Elliot said there had been some challenges including keeping their heads above larges taxes and in the early days financing and "opening the doors cold" to a brand new business.
"But the great thing was we had a figure that we knew that we needed to do in a week to float and we did that on the first day after that opening promotion.
"That was a good footing to go forward."
The biggest thing as an individual retailer was having a niche and sticking to it, Elliot said.
"You can't be all things to all people. We took up the specialist end of the trade and tailored clothing. So that's where our strength lay.
"Along the way, I think the major thing is to not change your position in the marketplace. You might go through a rough period but when you come out the other side you've still got what people want.
"That was my goal in the first half and that's how we approached going forward."
A love for the trade was what kept him going for all these years, he said, and knowing the future of his business was in good hands with his son Ryan was also encouraging.
"His influence is on one hand to maintain the core of what we did and what we do but also to keep the business young."
Ryan said he remembered helping fill in at the shop during the busy Christmas period after finishing his studies in Hamilton.
"I ended up really enjoying it," he said.
"I am proud to be able to keep alive what Dad created. We're definitely proud of the name and the fact it has a public profile."
The biggest change in retail, Ryan said, had been in the last 15 years.
"It is the way people window shop now is they look on their phones, tablets and computers often before they hit the street and enter your shop.
"But what we've learned is sticking to what we do and sticking to quality and unique service has proven to be the key to our survival."
Loyalty was one of the best tricks of the trade, he said.
"Over the last 15 years, there have been some really tough periods to trade through. But what the history of the shop of 40 years, right from day one, has built up is loyalty."
Tricks of the Trade:
5. Don't be afraid to take a risk
Source: Elliot and Ryan Pollard
Henriette Sampson believes every town should have a gift shop and hers has been in Rotorua for nearly 20 years.
Sampson opened the Simply Different gift shop on Tutanekai St in 2001.
"I used to have a gift shop next to the Rotorua Daily Post for four years. This shop came on the market and I thought: 'Why don't we try that'.
"I can't imagine not doing it."
What has kept the shop going, she said, was the people.
"People still like to shop, don't they? I think every town needs a gift shop."
In the last few years, Sampson said the biggest change in retail had been online shopping.
But also, she said there seemed to be more of a divide between the richer and the poorer.
"Either people are worried about how much they spend or they have got it to spend."
But one of her tricks of the trade was being able to buy whatever she wanted to for her customers and she never bought too much of any one product.
"I like change and I think other people like change."
Good product, service and reputation
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said to run a successful business over a long period of time required both good product and responsive level of service.
"It also requires a good reputation, especially in a small town like Rotorua."
Heard said a lot of traditional, privately owned, small-to-medium sized companies - especially those founded and developed by individuals – tend to lose momentum over time with successive generations of management.
"Behind this is often a slowness to modify the product and or the service to meet rapidly changing demands."
And Heard said demands on business today were changing at a faster rate than ever before.
"Things like online trading, newer makes and models with ever-changing features, processes, and add-ons are becoming available almost daily.
"Social media is replacing most traditional forms of advertising and promotion. Consumers are swamped with advertising overload."
All of that, Heard said, meant that a generation of businesses was emerging that were not even conceivable 20 years ago.
"Will they sustain over time? Some will and some won't."
Tricks of the Trade
1. The world is becoming more and more complex, and for many of us the newer makes, processes and add-ons are often seen as both unnecessary and overly complex. Therefore if we can find ways to simplify solutions, this is likely to be a niche that will attract consumers.
2. Another is that the advent of climate change and environmental pollution are becoming mainstream, and a move away from petrochemical derivatives toward bio-sustainable solutions is an emerging consumer trend. Early movers in this field will be attractive to both consumers and investors, but they will no longer be deceived by tokenism.
3. For smaller businesses, for example in the hospitality or retail industry, this is an extremely competitive area and the slightest little thing may win new clients or lose your regular clients. The personal touch is vital to make customers feel special, remembering a name, or a regular client's order, or even changing the chef may all be triggers to winning or losing business. Catering to the customer's feeling of being "a special individual" is very important.
4. I still feel that most people prefer to do business at a personal level rather than online. One recipe for losing customers is a chain of pre-recorded telephone messages – that effectively says "my time is more important than yours …" the customer is equally busy.
5. Relationships, reputation, relationships.
- Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard