Thursday, June 17, 2010

The History Of: Hallenstein Glasson Holdings Ltd



Hallenstein Glasson Holdings Ltd [HLG.NZ] (minus the Glasson part) has certainly been part of my childhood and growing up everything from school uniforms to first serious "shirts and pants" were purchased at a Hallenstein store in the main street of Hastings, Heretaunga Street.

That history seems to have rubbed off on me somewhat and 40 or so years latter I own shares in the company my parents used to buy stuff from.

HLG is part of Kiwi culture and history and it is remarkable that through the years since its establishment by Bendix Hallenstein in Dunedin in the late 1800s and to this day, HLG remains part of the Kiwi lexicon.

A piece in Stuff.co.nz out this morning goes into a bit more detail about the history of HLG and is interesting reading for those interested in New Zealand retailing and the history of business in general:

His first store opened in the Octagon in 1876, accepting cash only and advertising a single garment at a wholesale price – about 25 per cent on cost. He also opened shops in Christchurch and Timaru later that year, and in Wellington and Oamaru the year after. Through 1878 and 1879 the business opened shops in Auckland, Napier, Ashburton, Wanganui, Invercargill, Nelson, New Plymouth and Thames.

By 1900 there were 34 Hallenstein shops nationwide – only four fewer than exist today.

In 1883, the company's 350 staff moved into a new purpose-built factory in Dunedin. Soon after, Mr Hallenstein seeded an employee fund from which the interest was used to pay for medicine for staff.

When the Rev Rutherford Waddell gave his sermon on "the sin of cheapness" and called for a royal commission, "at a big public meeting", according to the history of Hallensteins, "Bendix Hallenstein supported him, declaring his sympathy with the movement and stating that he and his partners would sooner give up manufacturing than carry it on at the starvation rates being offered by contractors". Read more here.

The ability of a retailer to develop itself out of the Otago goldrush and still exist in 2010 is no mean feat and just goes to show what a business can do when it offers good product to its customers and runs the back office as frugally and cunningly as HLG did and still does.


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