Caroline Mackersey from Zoo Warehouse, Shop 4, Ponsonby Central

Tell us about your retail offer

After working for a furniture importer/wholesaler/retailer in Melbourne and living in Asia, travelling extensively sourcing new and exciting product, I felt there was a huge gap in the market in Auckland so I opened Zoo Warehouse one year ago. We sell furniture and home accessories that are different from the usual offering, and I import it direct so that I can sell it all at factory-direct prices. The pricing reflects this and the public seem to have responded - our new store at Ponsonby Central has a constant flow of customers, which is great! I've really noticed it picking up in the past few weeks, as people start knocking off their Christmas shopping lists.

What else have you done in retail?

The Melbourne importer that I mentioned working for, taught me so much about tackling Christmas. They'd bring in the most incredible range of Christmas decorations, along with beautiful homewares, and open pop-up stalls in some of Melbourne's busiest malls.


We all know how crazy malls get at Christmas. So everyone from head office would pitch in to cover the long retail hours and extra demand - it was a real eye opener for me.

What have you learned over the years about how to motivate and organise staff to sell well especially at Christmas?

Well, aside from keeping the festive drinks under control, I really feel the owner manager's attitude is crucial as it rubs off on your staff. Instead of being stressed about the extra business and flow of customers, be excited! I think a team responds to seeing the owner or manager putting in the hard yards alongside them, and not just leaving all the long hours to staff. It's not too hard to motivate the Zoo Warehouse team at the moment: everyone loves the summer months -all that sun and drinking wine at Ponsonby Central - so there's a real positive vibe out there at the moment anyway. I've been doing a bit of work with my business coach, Zac de Silva, and he's reiterated that happy staff make for happy customers so I'm certainly keen on keeping our staff feeling happy and upbeat about their work this Christmas.

What are your plans for staffing this Christmas? Are you taking extra people on?

During the year we try to run the store fairly leanly because we'd rather pass on the cost savings to our customers through cheaper prices but at this time of the year I think extra staff is a necessity to keep the customer experience at the standard that we've set ourselves. Everyone is busy at this time of year and people don't have the time or inclination to stand around waiting for their Christmas gifts to be packaged so we have extra staff on hand to help customers with selecting and purchasing their gifts so they are in and out as quickly as they want to be. I think proactive, helpful staff are the key to surviving Christmas.

How should temporary staff be trained during this time?

Selling high-ticket items, like furniture, means we have to ensure all staff (temporary or not) are well informed on product specs, from where the product comes from to the materials/fabric it's made from. We also teach staff to listen to customers and discern what it is the customer would appreciate. Some customers walk in, particularly men, and need a present for Mum or their girlfriend immediately and it's up to us to help them find the perfect gift. We've made sure we have a huge range of price points to suit all budgets - lots of items around the $29 to $39 mark fly at this time of the year.

Next week: A number of enterprising companies are creating apps for their own purposes and for others. There are also a number of apps being developed for small businesses to help them manage their businesses better. I'd like to hear from all of you who are particularly proud of your app especially if it can be used by others too.