Magazine article New Zealand Management

Michael Hill : Brand Champion - Covering the Basics

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Michael Hill : Brand Champion - Covering the Basics

Article excerpt

Byline: Ellen Read

ItCOs no secret that Michael Hill has lived and worked through tough times before. What is different about the current economic meltdown, he says, is that people have C[pounds sterling]bought into itC[yen] more and are letting themselves get spooked. ItCOs not a path heCOs following.

C[pounds sterling]It is quite unknown really, which can be unsettling but everyone is so negative, so spooked,C[yen] he says, adding that for reasons unknown to him, New Zealanders seem to be taking it worse than our cousins across the Tasman.

C[pounds sterling]WeCOre going into uncharted water but there are different ways of approaching that. The 1987 slowdown had very little effect on us really Co we just took no notice of it. This time weCOre trying to take no notice, it doesnCOt help to get too carried away with it.C[yen]

That said, he acknowledges that fluctuating currency and gold prices have made it harder to plan and forecast. And he is keeping a close eye on expenses, saying C[pounds sterling]ItCOs one thing to be making the money but you have to be careful as it can easily flow out again. If you have a big head office, for example. Ours is pretty lean.C[yen]

A lean head office fits with his philosophy of concentrating on the things which matter Co for a jewellery retailer thatCOs obviously the shop.

C[pounds sterling]If the absolute worst happened and sales went down 70 percent then you could probably just about do without most things in head office but you canCOt do without the shops. You donCOt need your CEO in a great big plush office thatCOs detached from the rest of the organisation,C[yen] Hill says.

His head office has a few glass walls but overall is an open plan office design.

C[pounds sterling]The CEO should be right there in the middle of all that but still going down regularly to the shops. Otherwise heCOs relying on what he hears from managers and they might be saying whatever they think he wants to hear.C[yen]

Genuinely modest, Hill says the key to the success of his business is having people who get involved at all levels and know, first hand, whatCOs going on. He doesnCOt see why that basic model should vary across any business, saying that if you get too detached from what youCOre there to do, thatCOs when problems come up.

C[pounds sterling]I think some banks have got like that Co they look so boring on the shop floor and theyCOre so impersonal that I would wonder when the CEOs of those organisations ever went down and licked bank notes and got behind the counter and returned to where they should have started from.C[yen]

Starting at the bottom of a business and working your way up is HillCOs recipe for business success.

C[pounds sterling]At MHI we nurture from within our company. ItCOs pretty difficult to actually grasp our business and the situation fully unless you actually started with us and literally swept the front of the shop out. And by doing that you then understand what the business is about. ItCOs quite simple. WeCOre actually just buyers and sellers of jewellery. WeCOre like that programme Open All Hours, like ArkwrightCOs shop, heCOs the best seller there is when he puts the pound notes in the till and the spring snaps it shut. ThatCOs all part of the mana of selling,C[yen] he says, lamenting the fact that he thinks the art of selling is a lost one.

C[pounds sterling]The art of selling is the most magical thing so itCOs a shame that, particularly in New Zealand, retail is classed as a last resort. ThereCOs nothing more fulfilling than being able to create a sale out of nothing, and have an amazingly satisfied customer who wants to come back time and time again. A sale should never appear like itCOs pushy because if it does that is unprofessional. It can be a hard sell but they donCOt know itCOs happening. That is the skill of it Co understanding what your customer wants so usually a good sales person doesnCOt chatter too much, thereCOs an awful amount of listening going on. …

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