Arthur Barnett Ltd

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For the founder of the former chain, see Arthur Barnett.
Arthur Barnett Ltd
Industry Retail
Founded 1903
Headquarters Dunedin, New Zealand
Key people
Sue Smaill, General Manager[1]
Michael Coburn, Director
Nicholas Scott, Director
Trevor Scott, Director
Julian Smith, Director[2]
Products apparel, cosmetics, accessories, homeware, furniture, general merchandise
Slogan Absolute Service and Value Absolutely Arthur Barnett, Absolutely Right (radio)

Arthur Barnett Ltd, trading as Arthur Barnett and often incorrectly referred to as Arthur Barnett's, is a department store in Dunedin, New Zealand. Established in 1903 by Arthur Barnett the store first began as a drapery for men and boys, progressing over the years to become one of Dunedin's most successful department stores. As well as their flagship George Street store, Arthur Barnett had stores in Balclutha, Alexandra, Oamaru, and Christchurch. They also briefly had a branch in Melbourne, Australia which operated from 1970 to 1977. This branch sold mainly carpeting and furniture. Today Arthur Barnett continues to operate a single store on the site of its first on George Street in Dunedin.

Arthur Barnett today

History of the chain[edit]

The 1924 Arthur Barnett building designed by Edmund Anscombe was a landmark on the northern part of George Street, Dunedin. It was devastated by fire in 1959, with only the building shell and one major stained glass window surviving. It was rebuilt in 1960s modernist style behind the existing facades, the main retail floor being a soaring glass-roofed structure, inspiring the store's slogan of that era: "the Daylight Store." This was demolished progressively in 1995-7 and replaced by the Meridian Mall incorporating a reduced-size Arthur Barnett store across two levels.

D.I.C. takeover[edit]

Arthur Barnett took over the ailing D.I.C. department store company in the 1980s. The D.I.C. had stores throughout New Zealand and should have proven a good geographical match for Arthur Barnett. In particular, the D.I.C. had 4 stores in the Auckland market, New Zealand's biggest. In December 1987, Arthur Barnett bought the trading assets of the three South Island stores and 50% of the 13 North Island stores which were run as a joint venture with Brierley Investments Ltd. Arthur Barnett Ltd bought the 16 D.I.C. stores outright in July 1988. The D.I.C. Stores were in Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Lower Hutt, Palmerston North, Wanganui, Hastings, Napier, Gisborne, Rotorua, Hamilton, Pakuranga, Henderson, Karangahape Road (Auckland), Takapuna, and Whangarei.

At its peak Arthur Barnett Ltd had over 1200 staff and 19 stores (the 16 former D.I.C. stores, along with its own branches in Alexandra, Balclutha, and Dunedin). However, the merger did not work well and all D.I.C. stores with the exception of Christchurch were closed within 2 years. By 1992 the majority of The D.I.C. assets were disposed of and the company was able to concentrate on its stores in Dunedin, Alexandra, Balclutha and Christchurch. In 1987 the Christchurch store in the Beaths Department Store Building was re-branded as Arthur Barnett[3] and refurbished within the High Street Mall development in the city's centre. The Alexandra and Balclutha stores were closed in 1995 and 2001 respectively. The Balclutha store was taken over by rival Invercargill-based department store chain H & J Smith. The D.I.C. debacle cost Arthur Barnett around $NZ 20 million and as a result the company had to borrow heavily to help finance the Meridian Mall project in 1995.

Arthur Barnett is located at 285 George Street, The Meridian Mall

Meridian Mall and a single store[edit]

The Meridian Mall opened on 5 September 1997 with the final development costs close to $NZ 50 million. As the main anchor tenant, Arthur Barnett had the greatest floor space, spread across two levels, although this being only about half that of the old store.[4] The main and lower floors are linked by escalators, with a more upmarket appearance than previous Arthur Barnett stores.

The Meridian building was sold in 2003, with the proceeds used to retire debt. Finally in February 2006, the Christchurch store was closed. Many of the staff were able to be relocated to other retailers including Farmers and Ballantynes.[5] The company now only operates the Dunedin department store, which acts as Otago's luxury department store, specialising in cosmetics, fashion, homeware and school uniforms.

Recent Ventures[edit]

In mid-2011, a small Arthur Barnett outlet store was opened in Christchurch's Hornby Dress Smart discount shopping centre,[6][7] following the Christchurch earthquakes. The temporary store was closed in 2012.

Also in 2011, Arthur Barnett opened the 'Arthur Barnett Gift Shop' at the front of the Meridian, in the former Kimberleys[1] store. The 'Gift Shop' was later changed to a 'Clearance Shop', and closed by 2012 to be replaced by a new Cue/Veronika Maine[2] store.[8][9] Mid November 2012 saw the opening of a temporary cosmetics clearance shop in the upper level of the Meridian between Stirling Sports and Wendy's Supa Sundaes.

During OUSA Orientation Week ('O Week') in March, the company operates a branded marquee at the University of Otago. The kiosk, manned by two Clinique beauty consultants, promotes the store and Beauty department to new students. The marquee did not appear in 2013.

The former Arthur Barnett logo, used until 2013

In late 2012, Arthur Barnett began using a redesigned logo in their advertising. The new logo uses a lower case sans serif font, with a capitalised subtitle 'the department store'.[10] Absolutely Arthur Barnett, Absolutely Right is still used on radio advertising. The company opened a temporary clearance shop in the Meridian in early 2013 (the space was formerly Supré), and was closed by June. Early 2013 saw the company launch online shopping.

On 16 April 2013 Arthur Barnett held an event 'Fashion and Food with Peta Mathias' hosted by celebrity Peta Mathias at the recently-reopened Toitū Otago Settlers Museum.[11] Janine Tindall-Morice commented "This event signals Arthur Barnett's desire to engage with our female customers in a fresh and dynamic new way."[12] In August 2013, the store launched a loyalty programme, 'Arthur Barnett REWARDS'.[13]

The company followed up their successful Peta Mathias-hosted event in October with 'Fashion in the Chapel' hosted by model Rachel Hunter at the John McGlashan College chapel.[14] The event launched the store's spring and summer fashion collections as well as featuring Bendon lingerie and M·A·C cosmetics advice.[14]


Arthur Barnett currently holds 14 departments[15] across the ground and lower floors of the Meridian. Departments include Beauty; Lingerie; Men's Fashion (or Menswear); Women's Fashion (or Ladies' Wear); Lifestyle Apparel, including R.M.Williams, Icebreaker and Columbia; Accessories (& Hosiery); Children’s Fashion; Luggage; Casual Living (or Homeware), from late 2011 with dedicated concept areas for Citta Design[16] and French Country; Home Linens; Small Appliances; Furnishings; and Schoolwear.[15] Additionally, Reception and the Arthur Barnett Café are located on the lower level. Casual Living claims to offer the largest range of Maxwell & Williams homeware in Dunedin.[15] Within the Home Linens department is the Wallace Cotton 'concession'.[17]


The well-established Beauty department is the largest and most comprehensive south of Christchurch. Makeup and skincare are available at serviced cosmetics counters for M·A·C, Yves Saint Laurent, and most recently, Jurlique (exclusive in the South Island), all exclusive to Arthur Barnett in Otago and Southland. Other counters include Lancôme (exclusive in Dunedin until Life Pharmacy opened in 2009), Estée Lauder (with an all-new counter introduced in mid-late 2012), Clinique (along with Estée Lauder, exclusive in Dunedin until 2007), Shiseido, Clarins, Dr. Hauschka, Elizabeth Arden, and Revlon. Self-select brands include Dr Lewinn's Private Formula, L'Oreal, Maybelline and Trilogy. OPI nail polishes received a large new fixture next to Lauder during the beauty department makeover in mid-late 2012. The Fine Fragrance counter is the largest in Dunedin, offering premium brands such as Guerlain, Chanel and Bulgari. Arthur Barnett formerly housed Dunedin's only Smashbox counter. In early-mid-2009, Smashbox was relocated to new rival Life Pharmacy, in the new Wall Street Mall nearby. Other former beauty counters include Christian Dior, and, until the brand's withdrawal from the New Zealand market in mid-2009, Origins.[18][19]

Arthur Barnett Lower Level entrance

Former Departments[edit]

Former departments include Electronics and Large Appliances/Whiteware featuring Fisher & Paykel. From 2007, these departments were branded as the 'store-within-a-store', '100% Arthur Barnett' under the New Zealand 100% electrical franchise.[20] 100% and its product areas were removed in mid-2010, with only Small Appliances retained as an independent department. Also in 2007,[18] space was made within the Casual Living department for the nest [sic] homeware concept store[21] as a separate 'store-within-a-store'.[22] The entire nest [sic] franchise collapsed into receivership in October 2010.[23] In mid-2010, the lower level of the Meridian Mall was reconfigured, considerably decreasing the store's floor space in what was originally its own mall. Independent toy retailer Toyworld moved into a new store built in the space left by the reduced-size Arthur Barnett.[24][25]

Other Services[edit]


Fashion advise, including outfit coordination and fitting is available department-to-department,[26][27] including bra fitting in Lingerie.[28] Beauty Consultants at each serviced cosmetics counter provide expert knowledge and one-on-one service. Services include foundation matching, makeovers and skin consultation to find an appropriate skincare range and routine. Additionally, Consultants are available by appointment for makeovers and event makeup. The MAC counter regularly holds makeup tutorials.[29][30] Individual counters can offer facials during promotions, announced via the store's website. Furnishings offers the complementary curtain making, and the Curtain Call design consultancy service.[31] The Arthur Barnett Café on the lower level of the Mall provides a catering service on request.[32]

A general change-of-mind exchange/store credit policy is provided within seven days of purchase with receipt.[33] Goods purchased for gifts may also be given a fourteen-day gift exchange voucher. Arthur Barnett has long provided a Wedding Registry service,[34] centred on the Casual Living and Home Linens departments, and now with an online register.[35] A unique benefit of the service is the complementary 'Wedding Registry Gift Card', equivalent to 10% of the total spent on goods from the registry. The 'Gift Card' can be used as a voucher in-store.

Arthur Barnett launched a new website, centred on online shopping in early 2013. Before offering online shopping, the store processed orders via telephone, facsimile, and email. Not all items or brands are available online yet.


In addition to a wide range of payment options,[36] the Arthur Barnett Account Card is available.[37] Formerly, Arthur Barnett partnered with Japan Credit Bureau on the Arthur Barnett JCB Card. At the chain's prime, JCB was a common method of payment throughout the South Island, accepted at over 25,000 businesses nation-wide, and in 19 countries.[18] The JCB Card's popularity declined alongside its namesake, and by mid-2009 had been reconfigured into the current store card.[20] The store has also long-offered 90 days interest free on selected items for purchases over $199, with 10% deposit.[18][36]


"Can't Stop".

In addition to advertising in the Otago Daily Times and via radio (using the jingle Absolutely Arthur Barnett, Absolutely Right), the store intermittently releases seasonal fashion and/or home catalogues,[38] and regular Christmas catalogues. News & Events are found on the store's website.[39] Customers can also subscribe to receive a regular newsletter.[40] A new medium for the store has been its Facebook page, which currently includes a weekly Look of the Week ladies' fashion feature.[41]

"Can't stop"[edit]

The advertising sign for Arthur Barnett is a prominent feature on the Dunedin skyline. Named Can't Stop, this neon sign features a small man (representing the firm's founder) trying to control a large horse, possibly a Clydesdale.

The sign was designed by the New Zealand artist Heber Thompson for the 1924 Arthur Barnett building (designed by Edmund Anscombe) which until 1995 stood on the site now occupied by the Meridian Mall.


Arthur Barnett was listed on the New Zealand stock exchange until a NZ $9.5 million internal takeover by company directors Julian Smith and Trevor Scott took the company private in 2002 through their company Belwash Holdings Ltd.[42][43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shoppers slower after brisk start (page 2) | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  2. ^ "Directors". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  3. ^ "Heritage New Zealand". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  4. ^ "Time to clock off for good | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rae, Sally (3 June 2011). "Arthur Barnett store returns to Christchurch". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Caudill, Antonio (9 August 2013). "people save money in online shopping". Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Reflect Image - Great news Dunedin shoppers, Veronika...". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Cue/Veronika Maine". Meridian Mall. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  10. ^ "Arthur Barnett - Foto's/Video's van Arthur Barnett". Facebook. 2013-03-05. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  11. ^ "Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  12. ^ Pike, Jane (20 April 2013). "'Fashion and Food with Peta Mathias". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  13. ^ "Welcome to Arthur Barnett REWARDS". 25 August 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Fox, Rebecca (9 October 2013). "Down-to-earth Hunter charms fans at show". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c "New Zealand Lifestyle Guide // Brown Bear Indulge". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  16. ^ "Stylish and affordable | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". 2011-11-29. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  17. ^ "About Us". Wallace Cotton. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  18. ^ a b c d "AB Xmas dd lip palette". 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  19. ^ "Back to its Origins". thread. 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  20. ^ a b "Arthur barnett 100% Tabloid by Arthur Barnett". ISSUU. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  21. ^ "Promotions". Merivale Mall. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Homeware retailer Nest collapses, 25 staff facing axe - Business - NZ Herald News". 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  24. ^ "Retailers ringing the changes through recession | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". 2010-08-21. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  25. ^ "Google Drive Viewer" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  26. ^ "Women's Fashion". Arthur Barnett. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
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