An iconic name is to fade from the Auckland retail scene after Australian company JB Hi-Fi's decision to close the four remaining Hill and Stewart appliance stores.

The Albany and Manukau stores have already shut their doors, Botany will close on Sunday, and the St Lukes outlet will keep trading until excess stock is sold.

A spokesman in JB Hi-Fi's Melbourne head office said the Hill and Stewart stores were a small part of its New Zealand business and it was "struggling for scale" in that part of the market.

Chief executive Richard Uechtritz was on annual leave yesterday and unavailable for comment.

However he told Australian website Current.com.au that the company wanted to focus on its nine JB Hi-Fi stores around the North Island.

"The leases on these [Hill and Stewart] properties have now expired and we decided not to renew them.

"We have decided that we need to focus on what we do best and that is JB Hi-Fi."

Fisher & Paykel dealer Hill and Stewart first opened in Auckland in 1951.

JB Hi-Fi, which sells home entertainment and computer products, bought the chain from its management in 2006.

Co-founder John Stewart said he was sad to see the end of a name that had been around for almost 60 years.

He had hoped the brand would outlive longtime competitors such as Bond and Bond.

Stewart joined war veteran St John Hill in his Wyndham St secondhand appliance business in the early 1950s.

They secured a rare Fisher & Paykel franchise and opened the first Hill and Stewart store in Queen St.

The business grew rapidly over the next two to three years, with new stores in Karangahape Rd, Takapuna and Newmarket. "Everything we could lay our hands on we could sell, there was a huge excess of demand over supply."

Eventually there were 10 stores around Auckland.

Hill did not keep good health and Stewart said he found himself "chucked in the deep end" running the business.

For many years he put his home phone number on the stores' advertisements so customers could contact him if they had a problem.

It was a good trick, he said.

"Very few people took advantage of that. If they did get hold of me they were always exceedingly apologetic for disturbing me, and they were dead easy to deal with."

By the early 1980s he had had enough and sold all but the Takapuna store to individual owner-operators, who combined their buying and advertising power under the Hill and Stewart banner.

Stewart sold the Takapuna store in 1987.

He was glad not to be in the extremely competitive appliance retailing business today.

"It's a very difficult business to make a profit in.

"It almost seems that it's a case of survival of the fittest, and by that I mean the best-financed operator who is prepared to suffer his losses the longest."