Boss keeps retail outlet trading with current trends

Smiths City CEO Roy Campbell stands outside the Colombo St store.
Smiths City CEO Roy Campbell stands outside the Colombo St store.
Smiths City has been an institution in Christchurch for 101 years. Louis Day catches up with chief executive Roy Campbell

How long have you been involved with Smiths City?

I have been here about four-and-a-half years. I came back to Christchurch for this role, I returned for the role as group CEO.

What were you doing for work before this?

Well, that gets a little bit interesting. Directly before this, I was over in the US Virgin Islands and I was doing a restructuring of a duty-free company which had been bought by a private company and just integrating that into their overall corporate structure. The company was called Penha Duty Free it is a privately held Dutch company and it has been around for 300 years I think. I was there for just a year.

How has Smiths City changed over the years?

Well that is a really interesting question, if you go right back to 1918 when Henry Cooper founded it and it was a seller of second-hand farm implements that he bought, refurbished and sold and then went from that into seed and grain and into livestock and then it was an auction house so it has changed massively over the last 100 years, it is continually evolving to meet the needs of the modern market.

How have buying habits changed over the years?

Well clearly in the last year term we have seen the rise of the online portal as a way to shop so that has materially impacted how people search, relate and purchase goods so that has changed quite materially.

Do you think online shopping is killing the face-to-face customer service experience?

No I don’t, I think it is changing how that customer face-to-face experience happens. You now have a far more informed consumer entering your store now, but humans are social beings we like to interact so we may search online we may purchase things online, and certainly, we see fantastic growth in our online sales no question about that, but they are complementary to the in-store experience. So I am very fond of saying that there is not an online and offline experience there is a blended retail experience.

Who has been the most famous customer you have served?

All our customers are famous, anyone that really shops with us is a famous person to us because we really value their interaction. Kieran Read has shopped with us, I know that well. But we treat every customer the same.

What have been some of the biggest challenges?

I think that retail is evolving so making sure that you have the right customer experience that you have the right level of engagement in-store is crucial to us making sure that our teams are really giving the customers what they want and listen to their needs is the most important thing.

What is your best selling product at the minute?

Well, you are talking in the middle of a Rugby World Cup so we can’t seem to keep televisions in the store at the moment for some strange reason, clearly, that is very situational, but they would be some of the hottest items that we have at the moment.

What are some of the biggest changes you have made at Smiths City?

Customers preferences and tastes do change over time and we move with that, in fact, one of the things I did back in 2015 when I came in here we used to sell a lot of products that we weren’t well known for that we used to be well known for but as time had moved forward we actually took them out of the range. One of these products was, we used to sell a lot of firearms and I cancelled that before the unfortunate events of this year. So we evolve our product sets to meet the needs of what our consumers are asking for.

Are there any types of products that you would be interested in looking at selling in the future?

Clearly the connected home is emerging, clearly, the more wearable technologies that are coming through, these are areas that we are looking at as a natural enhancement of what we do.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Island Bay in Wellington but I would really classify myself as New Zealander rather than a Wellingtonian or an Aucklander or even a Cantabrian. I have lived and worked across New Zealand for many years now so I am quite proud to call New Zealand home and I am very proud to be back in Christchurch for the third time, it’s a great place to live.

What was the first job you got out of school?

My first job was an apprenticeship and I was an apprentice as a fitter and turner and that was with William Cables in Wellington. I completed my apprenticeship when I did some further work in that field I then decided that I would like to retrain so I actually went back to high school as an adult student to do my university entrance because I left at 15 to do the apprenticeship, I duly received that I was then accepted into Mobil Oil from down here I was actually working up in Mt Hutt ski field and I applied for a role in Mobil Oil and was fortunately accepted into that. Then I went back to university, Auckland University and did a marketing diploma and an MBA and here I am I guess.

What did you get in trouble at school for?

Being cheeky. I was a very vocal child at school so I left when I was 15. Generally just being cheeky would probably be the best answer.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I do a reasonable amount of cycling and gym, I have a wonderful family I have a very supportive and sensational wife who is now a community magistrate down here in Christchurch and I have a 16 and a 14-year-old, so they keep me busy and engaged. I love motorbikes and I love being out and about in the Christchurch environment. I do road cycling, I used to do a lot of running but cycling is far better for the body. I do it for fitness, I have done Le Race three times now for my sins, but looking at doing it again, was an interesting experience.

Dead or alive, if there was anyone you could have a beer with, who would it be?

The standard answer for me would be Winston Churchill. I would probably like to talk to Einstein or Michelangelo as well, great minds.







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