New owner a lifeline for H&J Smith staff

New opportunities. . . Gore’s H&J Smith’s Connect staff (from left) store manger Jenny Katon, Donna Hastie and Lynley McFadzien are glad a new owner will take over the business later in the year and they will keep their jobs. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

‘‘Fabulous’’ is manager Jenny Katon’s reaction to the news Gore’s H&J Smith Connect store has been taken over by another business.

H&J Smith confirmed on Tuesday that a major longterm supplier, Longbeach Holdings Ltd of Christchurch, will start operating the store at the end of August.

Longbeach Holdings, a manufacturer which designs and sells a wide range of wholesale clothing, also operates its own APT Collections retail stores.

In May 2020, H&J Smith Group managing director Jason Smith announced the business was proposing to reduce the size of its retail division, including the Gore store, to secure its long-term future.

Under the proposal, H&J Smith stores in Dunedin, Mosgiel, Balclutha and Te Anau would close, while H&J Smith in Gore would reduce in size and the Take Note store in Gore would relocate, he said.

The downsized shop opened further down Main St in September 2020.

Mrs Katon said it was the patronage the business received that had made it attractive to a new owner.

‘‘It’s a great wee business and well-supported by the people of Gore.’’

The new store will stock many of the women’s fashion labels sold at present, but will also introduce other labels that Longbeach produce.

‘‘The people of Gore are going to be very happy with what’s coming.’’

The store employed four staff who will keep their jobs.

‘‘The girls are all very relieved.

‘‘We’ve all worked for H& J Smith for a long time.’’

It was sad the Smith family connection to the store would end, Mrs Katon said.

However, the staff were ‘‘looking forward to something new’’.

H&J Smith chief executive John Green said his company was delighted with the arrangement, which would ensure continuity for both the community and the in-store team.

He expected the store to trade as H&J Smith until August 26, which would be the last day customers could use their H&J Smith charge card and gift cards in the store.

These services would still be available in the Invercargill department store until November and at Invercargill Mitre 10 Mega until February 28, 2024.

Longbeach Apparel general manager Jane Coleman said the company was very excited to have the opportunity to introduce more of its product range to Gore, to engage the store staff and provide quality fashion to adiscerning community.

‘‘This will follow a similar move in early 2021 where Longbeach took over the Mosgiel store which was previously owned by H&J Smith.

‘‘In addition, we are very pleased to be including menswear in the Gore offer through our sister company Swanndri, with a selection of both Swanndri and Line 7 clothing.’’