Recorded: April 20th, 2018. Interviewer: Simon Johnson Abstract: Simon Johnson. Interview with Colin Dyer, Assistant Manager, PDC, Part 2 of 2. 0.00 Social events: ‘Nights where all staff involved.” Quiz show with prizes, also social sports teams – netball, also Co-op cricket team with ARTHUR BARTLETT as captain which played in TWILIGHT CRICKET competition. Staff from all depts. and levels - PDC, butchery, management, grocery. Raised money through raffles and went to Fiji in 1980 and played the Fiji National First Eleven and local social sides. Was summer, so many games washed out by afternoon rain. Had banquet at Governor General’s residence. Before Colin’s time had been even more staff sports teams. Was an expectation that all staff be involved in social events. “really wasn’t [sic] any divisions” between levels of staff at such events. “A family sort of environment.” Few discipline problems at work. Individual departments already close-knit groups well controlled by each Buyer. 4.00 Staff selection: Different emphasis at PDC as opposed to – say – Woolworths? Yes – when looking for a new PERSONNEL MANAGER. Successful applicant had a letter written by children or maybe grandchildren which Colin remembers as adding to more conventional CV material. “a glorious letter about Father Christmas and the whole family thing.” Mentions an assistant called HILDA who helped with initial interviews of floor staff. “old school.” If you hadn’t brushed hair, shoes etc. “you weren’t going to get a look in.” 6.00 Induction of new floor staff. Anything peculiar to PDC? A two-week programme. Focus on hours [being 5 mins late not acceptable], personal presentation, correct way of serving customers, taking their money, etc. Nothing especially specific to PDC. Culture was something staff picked up on the job. 7.35 Co-op Group: What led to erosion of dominance? * Abandoning of import licencing by David Lange/Roger Douglas’ Labour government was a critical factor. Before this many retailing companies had been going since the turn of the century [viz. 1900], their security based on the acquisition of import licenses. There was no other way of importing overseas goods whether “handkerchiefs or motorcars.” When licencing abandoned store buyers like Stephen Tindall [founder of THE WAREHOUSE chain of stores] could import “whatever they liked.” Protection enjoyed by established retailers lost. New firms spring up, e.g BRISCOES, THE WAREHOUSE, etc. Department stores could have done the same, but were hampered by their service culture which required more staff to run. New breed of stores had “quite a different structure to their whole operation.” Don’t need as many staff, a nearby warehouse, a fleet of trucks for deliveries. “Volume over high class goods.” * Other big factor was 1987 share market crash. “By far the biggest impact.” Back in 1982 management had begun talking about “what PDC needed to become” in a world of SATURDAY TRADING. Began planning for PLAZA – a shopping centre next to PDC. PDC had plenty of land. By 1985 – 86 planning advanced. Was over $30 million invested in Co-op Bank. Better rate of return for investors than mainstream banks. But with sharemarket crash “People began withdrawing their money.” Plaza was to cost around $25 million but the money in bank “Vanished over 3 – 4 months.” “Suddenly instead of borrowing the money at 8% [for Plaza construction] we had to borrow it at 28%” as Plaza was to open in 1987. Management had ‘been to Australia several times” to look at similar shopping centre models. Original Plaza “had about 28 shops in it.” PN City Council deserves “accolades” for stopping the spread of shopping centres to the suburbs. “Almost every other city in NZ does that.” ‘PDC Plaza” was Colin’s suggestion for a name. He became first Plaza Manager in conjunction with being PDC Manager. Worked with ARTHUR BARTLETT deciding the kinds of shops they wanted, in Plaza to “complement PDC.” Arthur Bartlett moved on “He could see the writing on the wall, I suppose.” BARRY PARKER became Chairperson. He thought that “hugely popular PDC” could carry the debt. 18.15 Adjoining property owned by Co-op: Majestic Hotel, Club Hotel [used as fabric department – see interview with Fabrics Buyer Norma Angus], much land behind through to Ferguson Street. Part of long term policy. Also IZADIUM [corner Featherston Street and Fitzherbert Avenue. [In 2018 this building is a fitness centre]. Was used as a budget supermarket “the forerunner of PAK’N SAVE. 20.00 The wider Co-op group of groceries, butchers etc: Was on the way out due to competition when Colin arrived in 1976. “Operating in a 50’s environment.” Buying power not up with national supermarket chains like Woolworths. Frozen foods only coming in 1960s/70s. 1976 – were about “28 or 30” Co-op groceries stretching from Taihape to Levin. “About 10 butchers’ shops.” “Served people who couldn’t travel very far.” Decline of these shops: Colin had little to do with this. Towards the end he took over management of the grocery within the Plaza as it was losing money.
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