Proud to be family owned and established in the South Island, Millers is a household name that provides the very best in curtains, blinds and accessories to a loyal customer base that only continues to grow. As their 95th birthday fast approaches, there’s never been a better time to reflect on their triumphant past…
Initially founded by Mr Leslie Miller in 1924, the first Millers store, located in Greymouth, measured just 3.5m by 6m. Ever the visionary, Leslie Miller quickly became well regarded for supplying quality drapery merchandise at a competitive price.
By 1928 Millers had expanded into Christchurch with two retail sites, and in 1939 their iconic Tuam Street store first opened its doors. The Tuam Street building was appraised for not only the product that was sold within, but also for its structural design concept. The addition of the South Island’s first escalator also proved to be quite the crowd pleaser. Happy shoppers could even refuel at the tea lounge and milk bar; an unheard of amenity that further proved the brand’s dedication to creating a customer experience like no other.
During World War Two, Millers became one of the biggest suppliers of military uniforms to the New Zealand army. They raised, with the help of their staff, $750,000 in today’s terms for the Sick and Wounded Fund, aiding soldiers returning from fighting in the war. Leslie Miller was highly regarded in the community for his generosity, supporting a large number of charities, so it came as no surprise that Millers sent parcels to all of their staff who went away to war, and guaranteed their jobs when they came back home.
After the war, Millers continued to expand, opening stores throughout the South Island. Customers in Dunedin, Invercargill, Wesport, Blenheim and Nelson now had access to the premium drapery products on offer at Millers.
With family values at heart, when Leslie sadly passed away in 1960, his son Reginald took the reins, and the Millers flag continued to fly with the opening of their revolutionary factory on Wairakei Road in 1970. This pivotal moment meant that Millers could take on many manufacturing contracts, including making uniforms for the NZ Airforce.
Perhaps the most pioneering moment for modern day Millers, was the introduction of their Dial-A-Curtain service in 1980. Identifying a gap in the market, Reginald introduced the concept of van-based furnishing Consultants calling on customers in their homes, and successfully established Millers’ ‘Dial- A - Curtain’ decor service. Beginning with just two vans, Millers were proud to be the first company in New Zealand to offer a mobile furnishing service.
In 1986 Reginald’s son Geoff joined the business and the following year Millers Decorator World opened its doors on Blenheim Road. This was another change for the company, introducing the ‘Shed Operations’ concept of selling large amounts of merchandise at competitive prices to the people of Christchurch. This proved very successful and helped propel the company forward. Then in 1993 there was another changing of the guard as Geoff Miller stepped up to the managing director role.
Geoff with his wife Jill as Décor Manager, led the brand into the 21st century, developing their state-of-the-art workroom and expanding the decor service beyond Christchurch to include North Canterbury, all the way up to Kaikoura; South Canterbury, the McKenzie District, Central Otago and the Queenstown lakes area.
The husband and wife team further grew the business with their astute buying decisions, growing their range of direct imports, a way of doing business which founder Leslie Miller pioneered in the early days. By importing merchandise directly Millers have had the freedom to source the very latest on-trend ranges of products, including fabrics and readymade curtains, which it then offers exclusively to its customers at competitive prices. They have also developed sound relationships with their wholesalers, providing customers with access to the latest products and innovations available in the market. Ahead of the times, Millers were also one of the first brands in the industry to develop a sound online and now also social media presence.
Keeping true to their family values, two of Geoff and Jill’s children have key roles within the business today. Their daughter Vanessa holds the post of marketing manager and their son Greg is the company’s first fourth generation director. It’s their staff as a whole who Geoff and Jill regard as their most important asset and they really do consider all of their employees to be an integral part of this family business. With most being long-standing employees, it’s a testament to Geoff and Jill’s aspiration to have a happy, skilful and respectful workforce. By supporting their staff, they hope they will provide the very best service to customers, and produce the highest quality products.
Today, Millers are celebrating 95 years in business, which is no easy feat! They have navigated their way through world wars, local, national and international uncertainty, changes in government policy, floods and earthquakes. They attest their success to their loyal and supportive customers, and are “thrilled to be going strong this many years later and to still be a proud family owned and operated business. It’s hard always staying relevant in an ever-changing marketplace but we’d like to be able to thank everyone who has supported us along the way”. Geoff Miller, managing director.
Here’s to another 95 years in business. Happy Birthday Millers.