The Post-War Years

When peace was declared and companies endeavoured to move back to normal civilian production, Millers had great difficulties in procuring worsted raw materials from England due to the New Zealand Government’s licensing policy. The company also struggled to get adequate quantities of fabric locally for its manufacturing division in Tuam Street. So in 1949 Leslie set about purchasing a block of land, 22 acres of sand dunes in Aranui, extending from Pages Road through to Wainoni Road on which to build a new mill. Levelling the sand dunes took many months of bulldozing, and during this period Leslie went to England to purchase the textile machinery.
  • Aranui Mill

    Aranui Mill

    At the end of 1950 a contract was let to Charles Luney Ltd to build a 62,000 sq ft (5760m2) building at 179 Pages Rd. At the same time another contract was let to John Calder Ltd to build six brick houses for key personnel in the Mill at the front of the property facing Pages Rd. After the completion of the building, it took nearly twelve months to assemble the large number of cases of textile machinery arriving from England. The plant was designed to manufacture both worsted and woollen fabric taking the process from the scoured wool through to the finished fabric, and was registered as Millers Worsted and Woollen Mills Limited. Production began with 120 staff, mostly from the Aranui and New Brighton areas.
  • A Rocky Start

    A Rocky Start

    It was a rocky start for the Mill. There was a portion of substandard material being produced, much of which couldn’t be used in the clothing factory. As a result Reginald Miller took control of the operation in 1955. With the help of an English textile fitter and the support of engineers and staff, Reginald made some serious changes and successfully lifted the quality of the fabrics and the standard of the Mills’ overall production. The Mill gradually expanded its range, developing a variety of new products, both in worsted and the smaller woollen section. In 1959 Millers lost the manager of the Rosedale Mill in Southland. Reginald managed the Mill remotely from Christchurch, while continuing to manage the Aranui Mill.
  • Tuam Street at night, decorated for Queen's visit in 1954

    Tuam Street at night, decorated for Queen's visit in 1954

    During these post-war years Millers made the headlines for their elaborate celebrations. Well known for their remarkable store displays, the decoration of the Tuam Street building in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to New Zealand (1953 – 1954) was certainly their most extravagant. Millers showed their support for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with a large floral display in the main shop window, signage on the building and the construction of an enormous crown on the top of the building, which was lit up by night and drew in crowds of thousands.
  • Celebrating 21 years in Tuam Street, 1960

    Celebrating 21 years in Tuam Street, 1960

    In 1960 Millers celebrated the commemoration of 21 years in the Tuam Street building. Again there was a large floral display in the front window of the store and boxes of chocolates were specially made with an image of the Tuam Street building on the front. These were given to customers and staff alike, with six and a half tons of chocolate ordered for their customers and a further one and a half tons for staff.
  • Leslie Beaumont Miller; Reginald Beaumont Miller

    Leslie Beaumont Miller; Reginald Beaumont Miller

    Unfortunately 1960 was also a year of great loss for the company with the sudden death of the founder and visionary of Millers, Mr. Leslie Beaumont Miller. His son Reginald Miller succeeded him as the owner and manager of the company.
  • Aranui Mill Equipment

    Aranui Mill Equipment

    Reginald’s first order of business was amalgamating the Rosedale Woollen Mill in Invercargill with the Worsted and Woollen Mill in Christchurch. This created a dramatic saving to the company as it eliminated the ongoing transport costs of sending the finished products from Invercargil to Christchurch via rail. Reginald then enlarged the Aranui mill by another 20,000sq ft to accommodate the amalgamation, increasing staff numbers to 200.
  • Aranui Mill Equipment

    Aranui Mill Equipment

    After the settling down of this major move Reginald extended the working hours at the mill to two 11 hour shifts, five days a week. In the 1960’s shift work was relatively unknown but staff adjusted to the two long shifts very well.
  • Aranui Mill Equipment

    Aranui Mill Equipment

    The increase in hours meant that production increased profitably to the order of 12,000 square metres of cloth a week, almost equally divided among woollens and worsteds. The worsteds went into men’s suits and trousers, and the woollen materials into fashion frockings and coatings, blankets and rugs.
  • Aranui Rugs

    Aranui Rugs

    The parent company, Millers Ltd could not consume this extra production from the extended hours and a sales manager was appointed to sell worsted and woollen product throughout the country and to explore the possibility of exporting overseas. The first success in exporting came with producing check travel rugs designed to the various State football club colours in Canada, complete with a large motif naming the club and showing an action shot of a player. The check travel rugs also sold remarkably well in New Zealand and further abroad where they were sold to “The Hudson Bay Company” in Vancouver, ‘Robinsons’ in Kuala Lumpur, and to ‘Selfridges’ in Oxford St, London. Incredibly, all of these large retailers are still in business today.
  • Top fashion woollen products

    Top fashion woollen products

    With the success of the travel rugs, Reginald then went on to negotiate a franchise with Melbourne based company Wenzel’s Design House to produce top fashion woollen products. Reginald put many of Wenzel’s designed fabrics into production. These fabrics sold exceptionally well with many fashion manufacturers throughout the country and with Millers’ own manufacturing division.
  • City South Businessmen's Association, 5 November 1964

    City South Businessmen's Association, 5 November 1964

    In 1964 Millers were the driving force behind the establishment of the ‘City South Businessmen’s Association’, a group of 54 retail stores covering the region of Colombo Street South, Lichfield Street, Tuam Street and St Asaph Street. The 54 stores came together for a number of years to promote the area, drawing in crowds with carnival days offering specials at every store, giveaways and prizes.
  • Revolutionising Machinery

    Revolutionising Machinery

    In the late 1960s when duties on woollen fabrics were gradually reduced the decision to specialise more as a manufacturing unit saw the step taken to sell off all the woollen plant at The Mill to Whanganui Woollen Mills Ltd, and to install the very latest in worsted spinning and weaving machinery from overseas. This included new for New Zealand Mills pirn-less or shuttle less looms, and with this modern plant operating 22 hours a day Millers Worsted Mills achieved sales of nearly 40% of the New Zealand market for Worsted fabric.
  • Restaurant Opening Tuam Street, January 1969

    Restaurant Opening Tuam Street, January 1969

    Millers’ Tuam Street building was constantly being updated and in 1969 an American-style self-service restaurant opened. This was the first of its kind in New Zealand and probably the most modern in New Zealand or Australia. Installing the restaurant Millers maintained its insistence on the most up-to-date developments, with all cooking and serving equipment being stainless steel, a new development for the time.

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