Recorded: 13 April, 2018.
Interviewer: Simon Johnson
Abstract: Simon Johnson.
Interview with past employees of the PDC Department Store/Co-op –
Brian Yaxley, Royden Williams, Barbara Woodward, Vern Lumley, Alan Maw
Location: Wharite Room, P.N. City Library.
Notes: Recording slightly compromised by acoustics of the room and varying distance of interviewees from recorder.
Recording 2 of 3
- PDC was originally the Premier Drapery Co. before being taken over by Co-op.
Changes which stand out for you over your working careers: Brian – growth of new stores which offered cash discounts on appliances etc. rather than a ‘dividend’ at the end of the year like PDC [Across the Co-op group customers who had become shareholders would present all receipts for purchases at the end of the year and received cash. Often enough for a significant purchase e.g. rates bill, etc.]. “Couldn’t compete with instant discount.” Vern – mark up on appliances etc. much lower than today when 100 – 200% common. Imported goods could not be marked up by more than 33 & third%
1968 when Vern joined PDC Co-op group undergoing “massive expansion.” Bought grocery shops, the IZADIUM on the corner of Fitzherbert Ave and Ferguson St [this building a fitness centre in 2018]. Brian – Co-op group even had its own bank which offered half to one % more interest than most banks. Many shareholders invested savings. Royden - Co-op bank “eventually sold to TRUSTBANK who were sold to WESTPAC.” Vern – Bank successful to the end. “Most of Palmerston North banked there.” Bank sold 3 or 4 years before development of PDC PLAZA. Barbara – There were Co-op shops in surrounding towns e.g. Bulls, Feilding, Levin.
How Co-op membership worked. Customer/shareholder had passbook. Retained all Co-op group receipts. Paid cash at year’s end. “Dividend based on purchases.”
Staff unionized? Yes, staff in appropriate unions e.g. Shop Workers, Butchers, etc. Relations with management largely good. Vern – increase in hourly rate geared to annual assessment. Didn’t amount to a significant increase, more a pat on the back. Vern - unions were “happy.” Vern introduced the assessment system early 1970s. He conducted interviews in close connection with staff member’s superior. Focus was on past performance. Buyers would push for bonuses for Assistants who’d performed well in order to keep them. Basic salary was the minimum shop assistant’s wage which could be topped up through good performance. Unions apparently approved of the system. LES GOODWIN allotted stock purchasing budgets to each departmental Buyer according to previous year’s sales. Lower sales meant that next year’s budget reduced.
18.05 – Changes. Royden – When he started at PDC in 1964 all stock was hand priced e.g. beginning of school year he might write 200 labels for school socks. The cost price was also included on each ticket in code. Aided marking down unsold items at a later stage.
Barbara – trading hours a major change. SATURDAY MORNING TRADING , then afternoons, then Sundays. We all tried to stop it… lost a lot in lifestyle. Some staff didn’t believe that Saturday a.m. was the thin end of the wedge.
All staff went on strike against Saturday trading with management support – were paid while on strike. Vern – this illustrates good industrial relations at PDC. Shareholders “horrified.” ARTHUR BARTLETT was Co-op head at the time.
Advent of DECIMAL CURRENCY.
Rhythms of working day/year – Christmas, school holidays ‘Homemakers’ Week’ when some goods discounted, school uniform changeover [summer to winter uniforms and vice versa], new season’s clothes [display windows blacked out to heighten suspense]. All full time staff had an hour for lunch, 10 minutes for morning & afternoon tea which usually extended to 15. In tea room men generally sat with each other, women with each other.