Valasay Holdings

Siblings stick together to rebuild their retail dream

  • Valasay Holdings

    Cherine and Andrew with tennis great Andre Agassi (centre) in their new PaperPlus store.

Andrew and Cherine Macdonald’s initial foray into retail wasn’t without its challenges. The siblings had only been trading for two days in their Lyttleton Four Square when an electrical fire nearly broke out, and then ten weeks later the February earthquake hit and the supermarket was extensively damaged.

On the day of the earthquake, Andrew and Cherine were both at work, in the office. “All of the windows blew out in the store – it was absolutely terrifying,” recalls Cherine.

“There was existing damage from the previous earthquake in September, that was in the process of being fixed. The walls fell down and there was no way of securing the store. Luckily, the Navy and Army were in town and effectively took control. They put guards on each night outside the store to secure it and the food was taken out ‘chain gang’ style to be used by the people of Lyttleton, as we were completely cut off.”

In the months following the quake, Cherine and Andrew went through a long and arduous insurance claim process. By the end of 2011, it was apparent that they would not be able to return to the supermarket and so began looking for other opportunities.

Moore Stephens Markhams director Graeme Rhodes worked with the pair on their business interruption insurance claim, as well as on the process of purchasing a new business; a PaperPlus store in Eastgate Mall.

“Dealing with the insurance after the earthquake was a complex process and a lot of financial information and projections were required. Graeme was instrumental in getting us through that process. He was a true business advisor, which is very important particularly when you are going through a very stressful time,” says Cherine.

With grocery opportunities thin on the ground in Christchurch, Andrew and Cherine decided to look at other retail enterprises.

“We saw that Eastgate Mall was being re-developed after the earthquake (it lost 26 stores) and retail still very much appealed to us. So when the PaperPlus franchise became available, we took it.”

Underlying the PaperPlus operation is a co-operative business model, where the stores, although franchised, work together on group buying and promotional activities. It’s a model that appealed to Cherine and Andrew.

In December 2012, the pair opened their large format 300m² store, complete with Lotto outlet and commercial stationery service. Both the business and the mall are growing. New shops are opening all the time and the foot traffic is very good. A focus of Andrew and Cherine’s is growing their commercial stationery offering.

The relationship with Graeme Rhodes began in 2006, when Andrew and Cherine set up a holiday home LAQC, and continues to this day. “Graeme was really critical to us succeeding with our insurance claim and we continue to rely on him for financial guidance. Not only does he look after our financial affairs, he provides neutral understanding and advice. It’s a relationship that works really well.”

Published Summer 2013.

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