Noel Leeming chief executive: “We do more than just sell boxes”

  • News
  • April 7, 2016
  • Sarah Dunn
Noel Leeming chief executive: “We do more than just sell boxes”

The inspiration for the 30-second TVC, Edwards says, came from a touching customer interaction referred to internally as “the Korean grandmother story”.  As Edwards tells it, a customer presented at Noel Leeming telling staff she’d been instructed to purchase a tablet by her son, who had moved to Korea. The tablet would allow her to enjoy pictures of her new Korean-born grandson.

The staff helped her pick out a tablet and then, in Noel Leeming’s instore “open learning” area, they taught her how to use it. Although the grandmother had never heard of Skype, the staff installed it for her. Following a quick tutorial, she was able to place a video call to her son. He accepted the call and, right there in the store, the woman saw her grandson for the first time.

“She cried tears of joy,” Edwards says. “You can go and buy a tablet, the lady could have got the pictures sent to her, but we were able to unlock the maximum out her device.”

The TVC itself follows a father who upgrades to a smartphone so he can keep in touch with his teenage daughter as she travels overseas. The advertisement shows Noel Leeming’s staff teaching him how to use it in store.

Asked whether the increased focus on services is a reflection of consumers struggling to keep up with successive waves of increasingly sophisticated technology on offer, Edwards says the services programme is not a direct reaction to customer demand - Noel Leeming has been working on the programme for five years now.

“We pride ourselves on trying to stay ahead of the needs of Kiwis,” Edwards says.

Although the majority of appliances sold by Noel Leeming are not ‘smart’ or Internet of Things-enabled, Edwards says New Zealanders are “a really eclectic group of individuals” who are eager to engage with complicated gadgets. He does see a growth opportunity for Noel Leeming’s service teams as customers seek to coordinate multiple IoT devices, but says extreme early adopters from tech hubs like San Francisco and New York are living amongst us, says Edwards. Noel Leeming services their needs as well as those of customers like the Korean grandmother.

“The world is becoming such a small place these days, it doesn’t matter if you’re living in Thames or Wairau Park or Waipukurau, you’re inspired by technology.”

Wearables continue to track tremendously well. Edwards is particularly proud of the relationship Noel Leeming has build up with Apple. He says when the Apple Watch was released a year ago, it was launched in Apple stores worldwide – except for New Zealand, where in lieu of an Apple store (which New Zealand still lacks), Noel Leeming had the honour.

The company also launched New Zealand’s first virtual reality headsets, Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, in June last year. Edwards says Samsung originally planned to avoid introducing the devices into New Zealand, but once they hit the Kiwi market, the first three shipments sold out.

Despite this success, Edwards isn’t tempted to try to replicate Dick Smith’s successful Move “fashtronics” strategy now that the Move stores are to close. “It’s not about having a specific standalone offer, it’s about an integrated offer,” he says.

The company has been steadily picking up staff from Dick Smith over the several years the rival electronics retailer has been in trouble. Edwards says it’s sad that a company with such rich heritage is closing its doors for good, but, on a positive note, he’s open to acquiring more of its former staff: “We’re always looking for more passionate experts.”

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