Powershop splits in two, international growth on the cards

Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent.

Monthly power bills can often leave you in a state of shock – especially in winter.

It is common practice for most major power companies to send you an invoice, after using a month's worth of power, and expect you to stump up the money within a certain amount of days.

But one Wellington company has gone against the grain and put the control back in the hands of the customer.

Powershop was launched in 2009.
DEREK FLYNN/STUFF

Powershop was launched in 2009.

Powershop, part of Meridian Energy, allows customers to "shop for power" as and when they need to.

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"The power industry does a really good job of making smart people feel stupid, so our approach was quite different," chief executive Ari Sargent said.

Sargent says he started Powershop because he saw a need to simplify electricity retail.
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Sargent says he started Powershop because he saw a need to simplify electricity retail.

"The products we sell are generally tied to a topical event or something humourous to give people a bit of fun along the way, so make buying power fun, rather than dull and boring and a real chore."

He wanted the company to suit the lifestyle of each person, Sargent said.

"So if you are paid weekly and you live from week-to-week, then obviously buying power one week for the week ahead makes sense, but if you've got a bit more money, you might want to squirrel it away for winter and buy some in advance. It's really up to individuals.

"We don't want to tell people how to buy their power, it's up to them, we just give them the tools to do it as they see fit."

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Sargent launched Powershop in 2009, as an electricity retailer in New Zealand.

Four years later, the company branched into the Australian market, and earlier this year into the UK market.

Since then, the company has been split in two, in order to concentrate efforts on the different parts of the business.

Powershop has remained, and is focused on growing the domestic market, while Flux Federation will focus on expanding the brand globally.

Sargent, who is an electrical engineer by trade, said the idea to start Powershop came from a need to simplify electricity retail to "make customers lives a whole lot better".

The industry rules and regulations were "not a great recipe for a good customer experience", he said.

"So we started from what's a great customer experience and made it our job to take the complexity out of that."

The company launched as an online business, and quickly developed an app as smartphones became more popular, he said.

Countries with different regulations to New Zealand " always create challenges", he said.

"Processes that work in one market might not work in another market because of different regulations and so on.

"[But] I wouldn't describe them as challenges, as such, they just require a bit of work."

Sargent hoped to further expand the company overseas, he said.

"To date, we've been focused on English-speaking markets, but as we go further afield we'll probably stray into non-english speaking markets as well.

"So that's what the future looks like to us is finding new markets and expanding our global footprint and continuing, as an online and digital business, to innovate around how customers interact with their energy use and cost."

Powershop was the winner of the Global Gold category at the Wellington Gold Awards on July 7.

 - Stuff

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