One of the first Briscoes stores, on the corner of Princes and Jetty Sts, Dunedin. Photo by the Evening Star.
A Dunedin retailer which became a 41-store national chain
marks its 150th birthday today.
Homewares retailer Briscoes started out as a small shop in
George St, Dunedin, in 1862. The company's Otago origins are
documented in a book released today, Briscoes: 150 Years
in New Zealand, by Auckland business historian Ian
"While the Briscoes of today is best known for its popular
household products, it began its life as a hardware retailer
providing equipment like shovels, picks, tents and lanterns
to prospectors during the Central Otago gold rush in the
1860s," Dr Hunter said.
"Full column advertisements in the Otago Daily Times
promoted tools, oils, bedspreads, boilers, even
sausage-machines - everything that a busy colonist would
need, delivered direct from Melbourne," he said.
"Briscoes brought the best manufactured goods of the world to
our shores and became the first, international mercantile
business to establish a presence in New Zealand."
In November 1863, the company opened an iron yard premises on
"Briscoes was a key supplier of iron and demand for iron
during that time was high, because it was crucial to the
development of colonial enterprise," Dr Hunter said.
In 1872, Briscoes expanded to its new Dunedin premises on the
corner of Jetty and Princes Sts.
"Their new venue was very soon the centrepiece of commercial
activity in the city, both for its sheer size, as well as
imposing architecture," Dr Hunter said.
"Until 1902, Briscoes was the biggest supplier of tea in New
Zealand. Fast forward to the first two decades of the 20th
century and the commercial direction of Briscoes changed,
with the company importing Wunderlich ceiling tiles, which
today still adorn the classic, ornate Victorian-style
vestibule in Dunedin's Railway Station."
Briscoes' influence on Dunedin and New Zealand architecture
is still evident today, with its imported building products
surviving in many buildings.
"Briscoes Dunedin branch supplied and installed the ceilings
for some of the who's who in New Zealand commerce, including
Arthur Barnett and A.T. Inglis and Hallenstein Brothers'
Octagon store," Dr Hunter said.