Key Points:

Alan Martin, retailer. Died aged 81.

Alan Martin's catchcry of "if it's not right we'll put it right and it's the putting right that counts" was a radical new way of advertising in the early days of television in New Zealand.

Most ads were fronted by models or actors, not by the business owner sitting in an armchair. His verbal guarantee was backed up by the listing of his home phone number for after-hours inquiries from customers of LV Martin and Son, appliance wholesalers.

Mr Martin once said that when people phoned him at 2am to report a problem with an appliance, he would occasionally phone at a similar hour to check the problem had been fixed.

He would justify the move by saying he knew the customer would be up at that hour because they had phoned him then.

Martin opened his first shop in Courtenay Place in Wellington in 1954. He had served an apprenticeship in radio servicing and then joined his father in his music and radio shop. He was full of ideas for expanding the business but frustrated that his father, nearing retirement, was not interested. So the young Martin branched out on his own, naming the business after his father, Leo Vincent.

His philosophy was "people first, profit second", something he learned from his father and grandfather, also a retailer.

"There's no secret of success if you make sure you're looking after the people who are buying from you."

He redesigned sale and purchase agreements so they gave power to customers and not accountants and solicitors, people Martin described as "barnacles on the backside of business".

"I'm saying to my customers, I trust you to be reasonable and I make you the judge of what being reasonable means."

The company developed a mail-order branch alongside the household appliance retailing chain, as well as importing, wholesaling and servicing divisions.

Away from business, Martin was a keen sailor. He served as president of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club for more than 20 years. But retailing was never far from his mind. His favourite boat was called Putting It Right, and his latest one was named Guarantee.

He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit last year, two years after 80 per cent of LV Martin and Son was sold to Christchurch-based Smith City. At that time LV Martin had five stores in Wellington and one in Rotorua.

He is survived by his wife Shirley, whom he married in 1954, two sons, two daughters and their families.