Family-owned and operated Christchurch retailer Millers Home has been providing curtains, blinds and accessories to South Island customers since 1924. We asked Jill Miller what their secret is.
Millers was founded in Greymouth as a drapery store that measured just 21 square metres. It expanded into Christchurch within four years, and in 1939 opened a store on Tuam St boasting a tea lounge, milk bar and the South Island’s first-ever escalator.
When World War II came to New Zealand, Millers became one of the biggest suppliers of military uniforms to the country’s army, and also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s terms for the Sick and Wounded Fund. It sent parcels to all staff who fought in the war and guaranteed their jobs for when they returned.
Further stores were opened throughout the South Island following the war. Founder Leslie Miller passed away in 1960 and his son Reginald took over. A new factory which opened in 1970 increased Millers’ manufacturing capabilities.
Millers identifies the “most pioneering moment” of the company’s history was its introduction of ‘Dial-A-Curtain’ service in 1980. Reginald Miller was behind the New Zealand first concept, which saw furnishing consultants using vans to visit customers in their homes.
Reginald’s son Geoff joined the business in 1986, a year before the big-box-style Millers Decorator World opened on Blenheim Rd. Geoff Miller has been managing director since 1993, with wife Jill serving as décor manager. Two of their children also have key roles within the business.
Jill Miller answered some questions for The Register.
In your opinion, what’s been the most significant change retailers like Millers have faced over the last five years?
Trying to get the consumer’s dollar before it’s spent on eating out and travel. Customers want instant gratification and the waiting for product is a challenge.
Can you describe what you think Millers may look like in the future? (i.e. what will customers want? What kinds of retail concepts will be important?)
Customers will continue to want product ASAP, hence the growth in our ready to install product. We have always traded on good fashionable fabrics at affordable prices, and the best way to achieve this going forward will be by sourcing directly from our suppliers overseas, which we will continue to do to remain competitive.
What’s been the most important factor in ensuring the company remains strong over 95 years?
The company was founded on strong moral values with staff “buying into” that culture. By remaining a family owned company, those same values remain strong in all our business dealings. Staff and customers alike are treated with respect.