Shift successful for McKenzie & Willis

21:47, Dec 11 2012
mckenzie
FAMILY BUSINESS: Bill Willis, left, and Tim Willis at McKenzie & Willis’s new site on Blenheim Rd after their city site was badly hit by the February earthquake.

Family-run home furnishings and interior design business McKenzie & Willis has been a Christchurch institution since 1913.

On February 22 the quake caused the first floor of the business's flagship Christchurch city store to collapse.

General manager Bill Willis said the search for alternative premises began the next day.

The business, which employs about 53 staff in Christchurch and has branches throughout the South Island, found its new Blenheim Rd premises through legwork and a lucky break, and signed an eight-year lease. It reopened there in July last year.

The new retailing area is less than half its former footprint, and reduced display space had been challenging.

Initially the firm had made a commitment to suppliers but over time it had to be tougher if the product was not working, Willis said. Since the quake the firm has focused on displaying products digitally on websites and iPads and that was working very well. The firm was still committed to its new location.

 Last year Willis had said the business planned to rebuild on its inner city site but now its former site falls within the southern frame and innovation precinct.

''We are working through that in terms of what development can take place. It is about making it work here first.''

Willis said the firm was ''starting to see the front end of the rebuild'' as initially it had been dealing with repairs and now was working on furnishings for new buildings. The firm was focusing on its interior design service and that shift had been very successful. The business was now getting back to where it had been trading before the earthquake, Willis said.

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