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HomeNEWSCherrytree: New Zealand’s answer to Costco and Sam’s Club

Cherrytree: New Zealand’s answer to Costco and Sam’s Club

More than 500,000 mid to high-end products are available to members.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Cherrytree, which started in 1996 when the first club opened in Auckland. A lot has changed in the last 20 years.

Owner-operator Simon Thomson says the club has moved away from its former ‘fight club’ reputation.

“Even 10 years ago, you didn’t talk about the buyers club. It was scary how secretive we were.

“That was about a fear that suppliers didn’t want to be associated with us publically but there was no substance to it.”

The club was formerly a franchise, with three showrooms around the country. Thomson had been a franchisee for four years when in 2008 he decided to take his future into his own hands and buy out the franchise.

“It was a huge year for us, we rebranded and we updated the technology and developed a new website.”

The website is now a major part of the business, as it now operates on a centralised location model. The single showroom, in Wellington, is the hub for the entire operation. Members can call in and browse or use the website to see the products.

Centralising the club doesn’t just save on overheads, it also means the knowledge of the products is all in one place.

“When you open a new branch the learning curve takes some years because we sell so many products.

“We now have specialist people to give the best advice to members.”

Cherrytree’s biggest customer-base is home renovators, expectant parents and families, who earn back the money spent in membership costs over time. The global financial crisis changed the way the club did business.

It was after the crisis that Thomson added higher-end products to the books, as fewer people could afford to buy them. That opportunity meant suppliers who previously had turned down the club were now keen to get on board.

Thomson focuses not on growing the business, but on keeping members happy.

“When members have a good experience, they tell others about it.”

Thomson has tried to create a community within the club. Members who buy products or services that need installation can now tap into a network of fellow members who specialise in those areas.

A member of Cherrytree who is a consumer, can also promote their business through the website. There are now more than 300 members who have a trade or service and offer discounts to other members.

In 20 years, the things people buy in the club has changed. Formerly whiteware and technology were top sellers, but now people look to save more in average homeware items.

Thomson says the key to the club is loyalty and transparency.

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