Superstore stands strong
Did Duncan Waterson doubt himself when he made the call to build a superstore on a site outside the central business area? “Heaps...!” he says, without hesitation. Back when the super store was being planned prior to its opening in 2000, his mates told him he was mad to lumber himself with such an undertaking when he could be off overseas doing his own thing, without a worry in the world.
But the Directors of Waterson’s at that time – his father Graeme Waterson, Doreen Waterson (widow of the late Ken, affectionately known as Doc) Jan Hill (nee Waterson) and Duncan Waterson (Australia, Graeme and Jan’s brother) put their faith in the young fellow.
Duncan arrived back from his OE in 1994, a tradesman carpenter, with absolutely no thought of “taking over” the family firm. In fact, he first took a job in real estate with what was Waikato Realty at the time. He still has no thought of a takeover.
What he did was look at the retail arm of the old family firm of D Waterson and Co Ltd and realised that to survive, it had to compete in what was “today’s market” so the business had to be restructured and expanded.
That was a good apprenticeship in business practices for a young bloke whose first priority in his new job was to learn how to use a fax.
“More importantly I quickly realised the value of good internal business systems and the importance of focusing on customer service.”
Duncan valued working with Doreen Crabb in his real estate days, and describes her as an ideas person, capable of looking at things from different angles and turning a vision into a reality. He learned some valuable lessons from Doreen.
Duncan used to lunch regularly with his mum and dad, Graeme and Fay – talking shop (of course), and realised that Waterson’s needed some work on, rather than in it. Graeme and Jan, the company’s shareholding directors, were operating in a tough market, with fierce competition, trying to meet their customers’ demands, and soon realised that they needed to forward plan for long-term goals or face possible closure of their retail arm. “There was little forward planning, no long-term goals, just survival of the fittest in the market back then,” says Duncan.
“What they were doing sounded good in theory but not so good in reality, in fact,” says Duncan, “The way things were going, selling the business wasn’t an option because no- one would have wanted to buy a stagnant business.”
During this time, Duncan was pondering a business proposal from a local businessman, who eventually told him it needed to be his proposal or the family business, and to get off the fence. “I knew nothing about the furniture business but by then I knew enough to set up a good client data base.”
Duncan had no intention of ignoring the family tradition that had at the time been built over 78 years in Matamata, and proceeded to expand the floor space of the retail division. He said that the business was fragmented, the furniture retail store on Broadway, the Bedroom Shop on Arawa Street and storage in Tamihana Street.
Fay and Graeme had the foresight to buy the corner section where the super store stands today. For many years it was the site of a doctor’s home and surgery. When Duncan started in the business, it made sense to put everything under one roof. Meantime the opportunity had arisen to operate the Furniture Court franchise in a new megastore complex in Tauranga. It was a tempting thought, says Duncan, and thoroughly investigated, but the lack of a reputation and customer base made a superstore in Matamata the best option.
In expansion mode, Duncan went looking at just about every furniture retailer store in New Zealand, stating his mission to owner/operators and managers.
His search for the know-how was well received and the corner store we see today is the result of the best ideas pulled from the melting pot.
Duncan says he still did not know about furniture but he reckons he knew how to run a business and look after customers.
With the happy co- operation of his proud parents and excited staff, Duncan was ready to compete and succeed.
“We had the premises, the staff, the stock, and the systems – now was the time to perform.”
Today - Waterson’s Furniture and Carpet Court Superstore – Corner Tainui & Tamihana Streets.