TINDALL Sir Stephen
It’s 30 years since The Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall opened the first Red Shed. All he had then was a bit of ambition and start-up capital of $40,000. “My initial thoughts were just survival. I probably had a little bit of an ambition to get three or four stores up and running if I could,” Sir Stephen says.
At last count the operation had 89 Warehouse stores (another three are due to open before Christmas) and a further 50 Warehouse stationery stores across the country.
The retail world is a different place from that he entered with his initial venture in the late 1980s, says Sir Stephen. “There is much more competition and therefore more customer segmentation for the types of retailers people feel most comfortable with.” And then there is the internet. “We realised that unless we jump on that bandwagon and become a very serious contender in that online space, we will be left behind.”
However, Sir Stephen still sees a place for “bricks and mortar” retail. At best, he believes internet sales would be a maximum 10% of its business.
A keen advocate of investing in innovation, Sir Stephen’s name is behind a number of ventures aimed at promoting start-up and early stage businesses. His K1W1 vehicle assists young entrepreneurs to develop New Zealand as a leader in the knowledge economy. He has also established the Tindall Foundation, which has a social and family focus. The foundation has given away over $100 million to date.
It is better to give than to receive, says Sir Stephen. “My view is that we were fortunate in creating a good business, and I find it much more satisfying personally, to do something really good with that money.”
Asked if New Zealanders celebrated wealth enough, he replied: “We do have this big disparity now, where there are some people who’ve made an awful amount of money and yet there are quite large numbers of the community who are quite poor. That makes it pretty hard, because there are a lot more people that are poor than there are rich, and so therefore people would generally look at those people with a degree of envy.”
Last year the company’s annual net profit sat at $77.8 million – down from $115 million in 2007.