Specialty store going strong despite quake dramas

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 07:19 10/01/2013
Johanna Cameron
DIEGO OPTATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ

Sales assistant Johanna Cameron in Cranfields Wellignton shop. The store has been relocated while earthquake strengthening is done at the old premises.

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Almost two years after its Christchurch shop was destroyed by earthquake damage, retailer Cranfields has shifted its Wellington site to avoid the same thing happening in the capital.

The speciality homewares and giftstore Valerie Cranfield founded in 1991 had been located at Vodafone House on Lambton Quay for more than a decade. It will be operating from Willis St until August while part of the building undergoes seismic strengthening.

"We were quite keen to get out really. We were insured, fortunately, but the earthquakes ruined the business in Christchurch," Cranfield said.

The store sells items such as local art prints, oak furniture it has custom made in Christchurch, cutting boards and serving platters handmade in the South Island from old oak wine barrels and leather animals imported from Britain that retail for between $600 and $1800.

It has the exclusive New Zealand licence for Italian pewter dinnerware Cosi Tabellini and imports vintage-look clocks made in San Francisco.

"Basically all the product I buy is what I like ... My philosophy has always been whatever I buy if it does not sell I'll take it home or give it to a friend ... I like my products to be beautiful, useful and a bit different," Cranfield said.

She first opened the store out of grief after her son died of leukemia, expanding into the city from her previous small Tinakori Rd gift shop Mostly Floral.

"I just had to do something to keep me sane. I guess I was braver then. I just said, 'well I am opening this shop and I don't care if it fails because I've been through the worst thing I can go through'."

The punt paid off, with business steady all these years. The shop won international homeware retail accolade Global Innovator Award in 2009 at Chicago. Cranfield said it had developed "quite a following in New Zealand" with the exclusive licences to some European brands.

Trading was "good" over the Christmas period at its Wellington store which employs five people.

Margins had tightened recently with the high New Zealand dollar impacting on the items it buys overseas. "It's not easy because with our dollar, by the time you bring the product home for me to be able to sell it at a price people will pay. We're perceived as expensive but we're not for the quality of the products we sell."

Contact Jazial Crossley
Wellington business reporter
Email: jazial.crossley@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @msbananapeel

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- The Dominion Post

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