Changing Times

The early 1970s saw more changes in the woollen industry with the closure of many mills, as synthetic fibre largely replaced wool in the manufacture of clothing. Although the Mill was operating very profitably the future for the industry did not look encouraging with so much product coming in from countries with low labour costs and so it was decided to close the Mill in the early 1970s with the building placed for sale in 1976. It was a sad day for the company and staff but in hind sight a sound business decision.
  • Millers on Wairakei Road

    Millers on Wairakei Road

    In 1970 Reginald made a move to relocate the manufacturing section from its Tuam street location into the outer area of Christchurch where labour was more plentiful. Millers then released the upper floors of the Tuam Street building for retail selling. Millers purchased a 6 acre site in Wairakei Road and one year later opened their new 108,000 square foot factory.
  • Wairakei Road

    Wairakei Road

    The building was of a circular design and was the most modern garment factory of its kind at the time and was labeled as ‘revolutionary’. The building had an elevated cafeteria and kitchen taking in a 360degree circle just above the main factory roof, providing large areas for staff dining and other activities.
  • Inside Wairakei Road

    Inside Wairakei Road

    The factory specialised in worsted and wool/polyester cloths and one third of the fabrics that the factory produced were purchased by Millers' own clothing factory. The other two thirds were sold to major New Zealand suit and trouser manufacturers.
  • RNZAF Uniforms 1970s

    RNZAF Uniforms 1970s

    In the clothing factory Millers carried out many Government contracts, including the contract to make the uniforms for the Royal New Zealand Airforce. Garments were manufactured for export as well, with exports to Australia accounting for 35% of the overall production capacity of the factory in 1971.
  • Manufacturing Decline

    Manufacturing Decline

    Government support for the manufacturing industry began to be withdrawn in the 1970s, and was almost completely terminated by 1990. This is one reason the proportion of the population employed in manufacturing declined at the end of the 20th century, and was a major factor behind Millers reducing their manufacturing department and selling the Wairakei Road factory some years later.
  • Tuam Street, 1970s

    Tuam Street, 1970s

    In 1978 the Tuam St building was sold to the Christchurch City Council and in 1979 Millers moved into the ‘Cashfields’ complex in Cashel Street, formally the DIC (Drapery Importing Company) building, who were one of Millers biggest competitors in the early days. Millers were the largest tenant in Cashfields occupying 836m2 of floor space on the first floor of the building. The new store in Cashfields specialised in three areas – dress fabrics, furnishing fabrics, and Manchester.
  • First Dial-A-Curtain vehicle, 1980

    First Dial-A-Curtain vehicle, 1980

    In 1980 Reginald Miller identified a gap in the market and pioneered the concept of van-based furnishing Consultants calling on customers in their homes, with the establishment of the ‘Dial-A-Curtain’ décor service.
  • Dial-A-Curtain Service

    Dial-A-Curtain Service

    Millers were the first company in New Zealand to offer such a mobile furnishing service, with just two vans on the road to begin with. For customers unable to come into their new premises in the ‘Cashfields’ complex in Cashel Street, the Dial-A-Curtain service offered customers a free consultation, measure and quote in their own home, with no obligations.
  • Dial-A-Curtain Takes Off

    Dial-A-Curtain Takes Off

    Several large retailers in the North Island and across the Tasman sought Reginald’s assistance in establishing similar services, and even the prominent Australian retailers, Grace Brothers (now Myers), benefited from his experience. Dial-A-Curtain was an innovation that proved exceptionally successful for Millers and quickly became something of a household name in Christchurch.
  • Blenheim Road Opening - Queues

    Blenheim Road Opening - Queues

    Having gained a wealth of manufacturing and retail knowledge, Reginald’s son Geoff, joined Millers in 1986. The following year in July 1987 Millers Decorator World opened on Blenheim Road. Millers introduced to Christchurch a trend in retailing which had proven highly successful overseas, namely ‘Shed Operations’. Reginald had studied ‘Shed Operations’ in England in 1986 and concluded that the concept would work equally well in Christchurch. The benefits of large merchandise selections at competitive prices had attracted vast numbers of the buying public to these sheds, which were found on industrial estates on city outskirts, adjacent to major arterial thoroughfares.
  • Blenheim Road Opening

    Blenheim Road Opening

    This new venture on Blenheim Road also honoured Leslie’s aspiration for Millers to be renowned for “supplying its customers with a quality article at a competitive price”. Millers Decorator World became well known by passing motorists for the large digital clock and temperature indicators on the Blenheim Road frontage, a novelty at the time. Over the next few years Millers then moved the rest of their operation - Dial-A-Curtain, offices, workroom and warehouse to the premises on Blenheim Road.

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