Nos­tal­gia and word play with Paul Lit­tle.

The store that al­ways put it right.

North & South - - Columns -

Be­fore there was shop­ping on­line or de­liv­ery by drones and couri­ers in a hurry, there was mail-or­der shop­ping, as brought to a peak of per­fec­tion by ap­pli­ance re­tailer LV Martin & Son. It gets a bit con­fus­ing be­cause the chap ev­ery­one re­mem­bers from the LV Martin ads that ran on TV so fre­quently in the 60s and 70s wasn’t LV (Leo) but his son, Alan. And then Alan’s son, Neil, took over the busi­ness – and the ads.

LV started his mini-em­pire in 1934 with a mu­sic store that added other items to the stock un­til it be­came a pre-em­i­nent ap­pli­ance re­tailer. Ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try mag Wares, the al­ways ser­vice- and cus­tomer­fo­cused Leo’s in­no­va­tions in­cluded of­fer­ing his own hire pur­chase deals and 12-month guar­an­tees.

Son Alan joined his fa­ther in the firm in 1944, but the story of the busi­ness was not al­ways one of happy fam­i­lies. Their dis­agree­ments grew to the point that, when Leo sug­gested if Alan wasn’t happy he should open his own shop, Martin Jr took the ad­vice – and the money his new wife was ex­pect­ing to see used as the de­posit on a house – and started his own store, also in Welling­ton’s CBD.

It gets more con­fus­ing. Ruf­fled feath­ers were some­how smoothed, and for a while fa­ther and son shared ad­ver­tise­ments and the name LV Martin & Son, even though they were com­mer­cially in op­po­si­tion. When Leo re­tired, Alan took over and re­united both busi­nesses.

Alan cre­ated news­pa­per ads that used line draw­ings rather than pho­to­graphs of the prod­ucts, ac­com­pa­nied by co­pi­ous text. This for­mat en­dured un­til well into the 1980s. Per­sonal guar­an­tees were al­ways part of Alan’s phi­los­o­phy and took up a large part of his ads as he promised breath­lessly: “Goods sent im­me­di­ately… If goods dam­aged on ar­rival, we will “put it right” at no cost to you… Full re­fund on goods re­turned within 14 days… 60-day right of ex­change... LV Martin’s 12-month guar­an­tee… You also get the man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee.”

Prod­ucts’ virtues were de­scribed at length, such as a car hi-fi sys­tem’s “re­verse cas­sette func­tion [that] au­to­mat­i­cally plays the 2nd side af­ter the 1st side, giv­ing you dis­trac­tion­free lis­ten­ing and driv­ing”.

In the early 60s, Alan wrote, starred in and di­rected some of New Zealand’s first TV ads, in­clud­ing his slo­gan: “If it’s not right we’ll put it right and it’s the putting right that counts.”

Alan’s son, Neil, had grown up with the busi­ness and joined in 1978. “We ran a seven-days-a-week af­ter-hours ser­vice,” he told North & South in 1994, which meant cus­tomers could ring the fam­ily’s home phone num­ber – shown in its ads – at any time of the day or night.

Neil’s in­no­va­tions in­cluded LV Martin’s large cat­a­logues, launched in 1979, with 200,000 copies mailed seven times a year. It was as though the com­pany was try­ing to pro­vide an on­line ser­vice be­fore the in­ter­net had been in­vented: back then, the browser was a person sit­ting on a couch in their liv­ing room.

The busi­ness went through sev­eral more stages be­fore Smiths City pur­chased a ma­jor­ity share­hold­ing in 2004. It’s re­mem­bered now for its idio­syn­cratic ads and a com­mit­ment to cus­tomers and ser­vice that few other re­tail­ers have equalled, or even at­tempted to em­u­late.

Left: Three gen­er­a­tions of Mar­tins: Leo (far left), Neil and Alan in 1984.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.