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Ballantyne's, Timaru & Christchurch

Ballantyne's on Stafford Street, north, at the intersection with Cannon St., Timaru, 5 May 2011, photo by M.T. 
 "Now we cross Canon Street and arrive at one of the oldest surviving men's and ladies' outfitters in our city. This was and still is J. Ballantyne and Co. Ltd and of course is a subsidiary of the parent firm in Christchurch. They have the knack of supplying top-quality goods even though they also have a top-quality price",
wrote Trevor Griffiths in December 2007.  

The Ballantynes branch in Timaru was opened in 1883 and moved to its present site in 1913. It is interesting to note that the architects for the Stafford Street building were Messrs Clarkson & Ballantyne: Mr Clarkson being a son of the founders of Dunstable House, while Mr Ballantyne was a nephew of John Ballantyne. New premises, 314 Stafford Street, was opened in 1986, and the shop extended into the first floor of this building in 2006.  History  Fifty Years of Business. Press, 6 July 1904, Page 4

From yesterday's newspapers

Timaru Herald, 12 April 1879, Page 4
JOHN BALLANTYNE, (Of Dunstable House, Christchurch) Having disposed of his retail business, it is found necessary to reduce the Stock quickly. For this purpose some of it will be SOLD IN TIMARU. It has always been the custom of Messrs J. Ballantyne Co. to clear out articles of fashion at the end of each half year. What will now be offered for Sale is, therefore, quite new, being this season's importing. More suitable Premises not being obtainable, THE FORESTERS' HALL has been secured for a short time, and we purpose making our first display on Tuesday 16th April.

Timaru Herald, 8 August 1879, Page 1
DUNSTABLE HOUSE, CASHEL STREET, CHRISTCHURCH AND FORESTERS' HALL, TIMARU. ON the 17th day of last October, I sold my business here in Dunstable House, possession to be given in August next. The Stock was to be in amount about the same as it was at August Stock-taking, 1878, so that I find I must dispose of from Twenty -six to Twenty-eight Thousand Pounds (£26,000 to £28,000) worth of Stock at some price. To effect this object, I shall, offer the whole Stock of over £65,000 worth, at such prices as will accomplish my purpose of bringing it to the desired amount. John Ballantyne, trading as J. Ballantyne & Co.

Timaru Herald, 29 December 1883, Page 2
This is to Certify that we have this day sold our business, stock, and book debts to John Ballantyne, 24 Coleman street, London.  Signed this 7th day November, 1883. WOOD & SMITH.
Referring to the above, I beg to intimate that I have sold the said business, book debts and Chattels to Josiah Ballantyne, William Henry Pratt, Robert Dawson, David B. Bowie and James R. Triggs, trading in Christchurch as J. Ballantyne and Co., J.H. Wood retaining an interest in the business. J. Ballantyne and Co.,'s Receipt for any Debts owning to the late Firm will be a Full Discharge as given by myself. John Ballantyne, Merchant, 24 Coleman Street, London.

We the Undersigned confirm the foregoing Notice, and beg to say that the BUSINESS will have the constant care and attention of Mr BOWIE and Mr WOOD. We have made arrangements for monthly shipments b steamer from London to Continental markets. Thereby securing the latest novelties As they appear. Being Manufacturers of men's hats, we have unusual facilities, and are enabled to keep a fresh and well-assorted stock of the leading Shapes. Another Special Feature in Our Business is Men's, Youths' and Boys' - clothing, made of the best Mosgiel, Roslyn, and Kaiapoi Tweeds, by our own tailors, at lower prices than the ordinary Imported Goods.  J. Ballantyne and Co., Shepherd's Building.

Timaru Herald, 20 January 1885, Page 2 Bowker Buildings
Mr C. Bowker lately had plans prepared and called for tenders for alternations to the lower fronts of those shops which are collectively known as "Bowker's Buildings." The architect for the work is Mr M. de H. Duval, and Mr Alex. Sinclair has been chosen to carry it out. The alterations are extensive. Complete new fronts are to be put and the shops except the one now used as a stationery and book dept. The window frames will be set much lower than the old ones, will be glared with plate glass, 11ft by 6ft 6in.... Reverting again to the exterior alterations, the present verandah is to be taken down and the shape of the roof is to be somewhat altered, and the line of it will run quite straight from Messrs Gabites and Plante's old shop to the one at present a occupied by Mr Whittaker. The verandah will be finished in keeping with the fronts. We understand that Messrs Ballantyne and Co. will move into the shops as soon as they are ready, which will not be long as the contractor is well forward with his work.

Timaru Herald, 17 December 1887, Page 2
Some days ago Messrs Ballantyne and Co., Victoria House, purchased the entire stock of the South Canterbury D.I.C., at the enormous discount of 75 per cent off the original selling price. Messrs Ballantyne and Co. never do things by halves, so they very properly at once decided to give their friends, customers, and the public of Timaru generally the full benefit of this timely and fortunate purchase. During the whole of this week their large staff has been busily engaged marking the stock down to sale prices, which m very many cases will be found to be less than one-fourth the original soiling prices, and certainly if we may judge from these prices, the public will have an opportunity of purchasing at figures which appear almost impossible to sell at, they are so low. Catalogues giving full particulars have been sent all over South Canterbury, and the name of " Ballantyne and Co. " is a guarantee that the goods to be sold are of first-class quality. The sale begins to-day, and will be continued till further notice.

Timaru Herald 6 June 1888

Timaru Herald, 7 February 1891, Page 3
A very enjoyable game of cricket was played in the domain on Thursday between Messrs Ballantynes employes versus the other drapers, resulting in an easy win for the combined team by 40 runs. Appended are the scores. J. BALLANTYNE AND CO.'S ASSISTANTS.

1st Innings. 2nd Innings. 
Strachan 	b Bussell 3 	b Allen 1 
L. Pagat 	b Allen O 	b Bussell ... O 
Shrimpton 	b Allen O 	b Allen ... ... 1 
W. Paget 	c and 		b Bussell ... 2 c 
Pritchard 	b Allen 0 	b Allen 1 
Finley 		c Gerity 	b Allen ... ... 4 c
Triggs 		c Irwin 	b Bussell ... 7 c  
Needbam 	b Allen 2 	not out 4 
Thompson 	c Gerity 	b Bussell ... 1 
Werry 		b Allen ... O 	b Allen 0
Mitchell 	not out 0 	b Allen 0 
Extras ... 1 Total ... 24 10 

Timaru Herald, 22 March 1895, Page 3
Despite the bleak afternoon yesterday, the Canterbury Farmers' Co-operate Association played a very enjoyable game with a team from Ballantyne's, the former being victorious by 47 runs. The following are the scores : — Ballantyne's.

Price, 		c Shirtcliffe, b Jones 13 
Lightband, 	b Boys 1 
Stonehouse, 	c Wilson, b Jones ... 2 
Heron, 		c Wilson, b Jones 8 
Needham, 	b Jones 0 
Kelly, 		c Shirtcliffe, b Boys 1 
Smith, 		c Wilson, b Jones 6 
Findlay, 	run out 0 
Matthews, 	run out 0 
Matthews, 	not out 0 
Cowie, 		c Jones, b Boys 16 Extras 9 
Total ... 56 Boys took 3 wickets for 24 ; Jones 5 for 23.  

Timaru Herald, 20 June 1895, Page 2
On Mr F. Smith leaving the employment of Messrs J. Ballantyne and Co., with whom he has been for some years, to take up his new appointment at the Farmers' Co-operative Store, Mr F. Hooper, on behalf of the employees of Victoria House, presented Mr Smith with a beautiful set of gold studs and sleeve links as a token of the goodwill that had always existed between them, and wished him every success in his new sphere. Mr Smith feelingly replied, thanking them for their handsome present and good wishes.

 6 May 1896: The bride wore a handsome travelling costume by Mrs King, of Ballantyne and Co.,'s, in navy blue face-cloth skirt and velveteen bodice, with picture hat in satin felt to match, trimmed with velvet and birds.  

Timaru Herald, 18 February 1897, Page 2
A match will be played at the Victoria (Ballantyne's) Tennis Court this afternoon between four members of the club named and four from the Trinity Recreation Club. The teams are Victoria — Messrs Stonehouse, Finlay, Lightband and Allen ; Trinity — Messrs Mayne, Blake, McLeod, and either Austin or Wright. Play will start about 3 o'clock, and will consist of men's doubles and singles.  

Timaru Herald, 5 June 1897, Page 2
The annual reunion of the staff and friends of Victoria House (J. Ballantyne and Co.) was held in the Barnard Street Hall on Wednesday last. The attendance was large, and the hall was prettily decorated. An excellent musical programme was given by promoters and visitors, and dancing was very much enjoyed. The stage was fitted up as a drawing-room, and there were card rooms and other attractions for non dancers. Mr- Shields' band discoursed capital music, and Mr Sutherland's catering gave the greatest satisfaction. The social was one of the best Victoria House ever held, and the staff left nothing undone to induce the visitors to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Timaru Herald 28 July 1928


Otago Witness 17 August 1899, Page 40
Mr John Ballantyne, late head of the firm of Ballantyne and Co., drapers, aged 74 years, is dead. Deceased arrived in Christchurch in 1872, and of late years devoted himself to farming at Ruapuna, Mount Peel.

Timaru Herald, 8 August 1899, Page 3
MR JOHN BALLANTYNE. News reached Timaru yesterday of the death at Christchurch on Sunday of a gentleman whose name is a household word in most households in Canterbury, Mr John Ballantyne, former head, and father of the present principals, of the well-known firm of J. Ballantyne & Co. The deceased was a native of Selkirk, Scotland, and came out to the colonies in 1852. He was first engaged to manage the Adelaide branch of the drapery business of McArthur and Co., and presently started in business on his own account in Adelaide. In 1872 he came to New Zealand and purchased the Dunstable House business from Mr W. Pratt, and soon after established the Timaru branch, and acquiring the residence of the late Mr R. Turnbull, Mr Ballantyne spent much of his time in Timaru. In 1879 the business was formed into a company, and Mr Ballantyne being relieved from most of his former business cares, and having a passion for farming, he acquired a farm on the Rangitata and became a South Canterbury settler, and paid great attention to the improvement of his farm. Mr Ballantyne was an earnest member and liberal supporter of the Wesleyan Church, and when at his farm Ruapuna held an unsectarian service. He leaves a widow, three sons and five daughters The deceased was a man of excellent business capacity combined with the utmost integrity, and leaves behind him a stainless name, and an example for all business men to follow. His funeral takes place at Christchurch to-day, and a number of Timaru people went up last evening to attend it.  

Star, Christchurch Tuesday 26 January 1886 Marriage
BALLANTYNE - HAYNES - on 18 January at Dunedin, Josiah Ballantyne, son of John Ballantyne, Esq. of Timaru to Jessie Montgomery Haynes, eldest daughter. of Daniel Haynes Esq. of Dunedin.

Friday 18 September  1891 Marriage.
BALLANTYNE-HAYNES - On September 15th, at Trinity Church, Dunedin, by the Rev. W.C. Oliver, William, third son of John Ballantyne, Timaru, to Mary Jane (Jennie), second daughter of Daniel Haynes, Dunedin 

Star 6 January 1903, Page 3
BALLANTYNE — CLARKSON. Dec. 30, 1902, at the residence of the bride's parents, by the Rev R. J. Murray, assisted by the Rev W. Lee, Richard, third son of the late Thomas Ballantyne, of "Canowie," Riccarton, to Susann (Cissie), daughter of W. B. Clarkson, "Swinnyback," Riccarton.

 Improvements at Ballantynes

Timaru Herald, 6 April 1891, Page 3
Autumn Display

Timaru Herald, 3 April 1899, Page 2
Messrs J. J. Grandi and Co., coachbuilders, last week put out to the order of Messrs Ballantyne and Co. two very fine sample vans for use of the firm's travellers in the country districts of South Canterbury. The vans are fourwheelers, fitted with shafts, and the body rests on springs coupled on the American system, so that riding is as easy as though the driver were on an air cushion. The bottom framing of the body is cut up the sides from the seat forward, to give the fore-carriage a better lock, and so that this will not weaken the framing, an iron plate running along the outside takes the place of the usual bead, and another iron plate running along the inside of the frame, the double plating makes the whole extra strong. A number of improvements have been introduced. On each side of the body above the front wheels is a door, which enables the traveller to easily get at his samples there ; the driver's seat is so constructed that it can be utilised as a desk ; underneath what is known as the lady's seat is a recess for the wrench, and other odds and ends ; and the tailboard of the van is utilised as a counter. To effect this all fastenings were done away with, a rest slides out from the underfloor of the body, and the board drops upon it, the rest being edged with rubber to minimise jar and wear and tear. The roof of the van is flat and waterproof, and the furniture of the whole vehicle is of the best— Howe and Burleigh's silvermounted patent lamp, American axles, etc. The colouring of the vans is dark green lined straw colour, with the monogram of the firm m gold on the front side-panels. The workmanship and finish reflect the greatest credit on the builders, and the vehicles should fulfill all that is expected of them.

Timaru Herald, 13 September 1899, Page 3
Messrs J. Ballantyne and Co., the widely known drapers, announce that their new show room will be opened on Friday next and following days for inspection by customers and others interested. The new rooms are among the latest additions to the business places of Timaru, and are situated at the back of what u« at present the ladies' department of the well-known establishment. The addition is of brick, and largely bulks in the view from Woollcoombe street. We had a look over it yesterday, when the staff were very busy preparing for the special display on Friday, next. The rooms are reached by a very fine staircase springing from the floor of the main shop. The stair is a choice piece of work, the turned pillars being of rim a and the moulded hind ratings of the same choice timber. The standards arc painted a dead white, and the whole effect is exceedingly neat. The show-rooms are panelled, and surmounted by a very bold cornice, the ground tinting being a pale yellow, while the edges of the mouldings carry the necessary brightness m faint rose-colour, the effect altogether being exceptionally good. Mirrors, showcases, mantle stands, cables, etc., comprise the furnishings, and when all are "dressed" the show-rooms will present a very handsome appearance. One excellent feature of them is the perfect lighting, the range of windows to south and east being admirably placed. The success thus attained has resulted in great good to the main shop also, which has a very fine appearance as viewed from the landing m the new show and mantle rooms. The building of these has also enabled the management to entirely remonel the lavatories and other offices, which are capitally appointed and furnished. The new block has been well designed by Mr J. Turnbull, architect, and faithfully built by Mr P. Pringle (builder), Mr. E. Hall (bricklayer), and Mr J. Craigie (painter and plumber). The addition of the block necessitated minor alterations here and there, such as a new exterior staircase to the tailoring department, and interior remodelling of the men's outfitting department, and a new staircase from the main salesroom (the ladies'). All these improvements m addition to adding to the comfort of the staff m the dressmaking and tailoring departments, add greatly to the efficiency of the working of the establishment as a whole, and enable customers to get about expeditiously and comfortably. As seen yesterday, the season's shipments were being rapidly put into their proper places, and though Friday's chief attractions are to be the displays in the new rooms mentioned, visitors will no doubt be only too pleased to walk through the entire place, and agree with us that "Ballantynes, Timaru," is an establishment that South Canterbury is very proud of.  

J.  Ballantyne & Co Ltd Timaru Fashion Parade - 10 October 1951
The names of the persons, were scrawled on the back of the photograph, I don't know which name belongs to which face: Sylvia Fisher, Janelle Black, Esther Wallaby/Waleakey??, Jacqui McDougall, Judith Fairbrother, Hillary Hayhurst, Winifred Larsen, Joy Evans, Betty Jackson, Ngaire Ruddenklau, Evelyn Bray/Brady??, Mary Parsons. S.O. Bremford Studio photo. 

Location, location location
Ballantyne's is still located in Timaru at the top of the town, Stafford St. north and still has fashion shows and window displays and everyone in South Canterbury know where Ballantyne's is located, it is a reference point.

Timaru Herald, 3 December 1885, Page 2
New Business.— We are glad to notice that the shop next Ballantyne's which has been unoccupied for some time will be again occupied on Saturday as a grocery, crockery and ironmongery store. The business will be under the management of Mr J.G. Robertson.

Timaru Herald, 6 October 1887, Page 4
D. Corsair, Furnishing Undertaker, Main South Road, opposite J. Ballantyne, & Co.s, Timaru. Private Address— Regent Street, St. John's Wood.

Timaru Herald, 18 February 1896, Page 2
The Misses McRae— Have started business as dressmakers, opposite Ballantyne's.

Timaru Herald, 15 November 1898, Page 2
J. B. Lister— Has opened fruiterer's and confectioner's shop opposite Ballantyne's.

Timaru Herald, 16 November 1898, Page 2
J. Barrie - Has opened fancy goods and confectioner's shop opposite Ballantyne's.

Timaru Herald, 3 June 1899, Page 2
At the Magistrate's Court yesterday, before the Stipendiary Magistrate, a farmer named Neil O'Boyle was charged by Sergeant Fraser with negligent driving in Stafford street, about 5 o'clock last Saturday evening. He pleaded not guilty. Constable Dalton, who said he had driven horses for many years, stated that defendant drove out of Trilford's stables, and as the horse was fresh and played up a bit he used the whip upon it and made it worse. The horse plunged about and got on the footpath opposite Ballantyne's. J. Morgan was called as a witness, but appeared to have changed his opinion as to defendant being in fault since the incident. Defendant called H. Bourn, who stated that he was coming up the street and saw the mare playing up. He thought he saw what was wrong, and he took her head and led her to the bottom of the street and altered the reins, and then she went quietly enough. The reins had been so attached as to make the bit severe. He thought the whip bad been used to keep the mare off the footpath, because she would not steer with the bit. Defendant made a statement giving a similar explanation. His Worship said he was not quite satisfied but would give defendant the benefit of the doubt, and dismissed him with a caution.

Timaru Herald, 13 June 1899, Page 3
Building By-laws. Mr Cullmann applied for permission to remove a stable now encroaching on a right-of-way at the back of Ballantyne's, or to cut 9 ft off the end and close the end with iron ; and for leave to build a 2-stall stable on the same section. A long discussion resulted m the first request being granted (for the cutting back of the shed, not for its removal)

Timaru Herald, 10 March 1900, Page 4
The information was laid by Mounted Constable Crawford, Inspector of Abattoirs. Sergeant Fraser said that on the 1st inst. Mr Mills' man slaughtered a calf in the butcher's shop next door to Ballantyne's, and stated that he did it under the direction of the defendant. The place was not licensed.  

Timaru Herald, 2 September 1910, Page 6 A FASHION CENTRE.
BALLANTYNE'S, For more years perhaps than it is easy to recall, Ballantyne's has been a household word in Timaru, and indeed throughout Canterbury, indicating that which is best in the matter or dress, for all classes, and in the changing seasons of the year, the Show windows of their extensive business premises give the cue to the problem as to what, is the correct thing to wear, and where to get it. A window dressing is an art. The window dresser has to discover how best to attract- the public, and cause them to purchase certain goods, and this has surely been reduced to a fine art at Ballantyne's, where the show windows act as a kind of magnet, drawing shoppers, as well as those who have no intention of shopping unto them to admire the goods displayed. The spring show of 1910 is now on at Ballantyne's, as a glance at the windows proves; and while a peep at what is there displayed affords satisfaction and pleasure to so many, a stroll through the interior of the store reveals cause for unbounded admiration. This however, is no matter for surprise in the case of a firm with an experience and a reputation behind it, such as that enjoyed by Messrs J. Ballantyne and Co.

In May 2011 across Canon Street on opposite corner is Coffee Culture, a cafe. Across street at 307 Stafford Street is Katmandu, a store selling camping clothing and gear. It used to be Smiths City furniture but they are now down opposite Browne Street, on High Street. 

In 2011 Ballantyne's in Timaru still stocks golliwogs. They are made in Australia and are called a Kate Finn Golly. Most New Zealanders have fond memories of gollies from their childhood and want to pass the same thing on to their children. They are a good toy for both girls and boys too.

Christmas just around corner for Ballantynes - The Christmas window has been popular in CHCH since 2002 and a large crowd will be expected to attend its unveiling. In past years the window has needed cleaning up to four times a day – "a sure sign of success".

5 May 2011 Photo by M.T.
 Ballantyne's on the corner of Stafford & Canon Streets, Timaru.    On Stafford St.

Ogilvie, Gordon: Ballantynes: the Story of Dunstable House 1854-2004 (The Caxton Press, 2004) available from Ballantyne's. 264 p. : ill. (some col.), ports. (some col.), 31 cm. Notes: Includes information on Timaru House (previously called Victoria House), the 1947 fire, and 20th century fashion. Includes bibliographical references (p. 258) and index. A recent work which tells the story of a single company. But it is a company which has played a highly significant role in retailing in Christchurch and the book includes information about the central city’s physical development and its social history. It includes the best account yet of the tragic Ballantynes fire of 1947.

Ogilvie, Gordon: Business histories and the Ballantynes story. Publisher: Christchurch, N.Z. : Canterbury History Foundation, 2004. 15 leaves ; 30 cm.
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District] 1903 page 300

Photos CHCH
J. Ballantyne & Co Ltd, Christchurch's landmark retail establishment. The firm's founder, John Ballantyne, captured in pencil by renowned colonial artist Sydney Lough Thompson, watches over proceedings, at the CHCH store, from his frame on the wall, alongside black-and-white photographs documenting various stages in Ballantynes' history. 1885 Dunstable House, 1901Cashel Street, 1901 showroom, furniture factory, the 3rd Dunstable House c. 1900, stables, 1947 fire 

No-one does it like Ballantynes

I agree. I was enjoying a little retail therapy in Ballantynes in Timaru and asked if they had The Bank Street Collection 100% wool tartan rug - full throw - locally made in Timaru, (the Bank St. mill closed in 2008). I don't normally shop at Ballantynes (usually The Farmers) but was after this special item that I had seen advertised in The Press for their stall at the Royal Show in CHCH in November. They didn't have any so a call was made to their CHCH branch in the CBD and they had a few left. A couple of days later I was there in CHCH and as soon as I walked into Ballantynes someone realised I needed help and immediately went out the back and came back with the plaid rugs, as they were not on display, only three patterns left, so I selected two Mackenzie tartan as I was from Fairlie and two red tartan rugs, Royal Stewart, - perfect gifts for overseas family. The manager came by and asked if I was flying out and I said in the morning so he suggested repacking the rugs in one shopping bag and carry it onto the plane as duty free goods. Together we removed all the packaging and taped up the shopping bag and Ballantynes delivered it to the airport and in the morning I picked up the shopping bag at the CHCH Airport Ballantynes Gallery branch in the international terminal and made it in time for my 6 a.m. flight to Sydney so I avoided paying GST. I took the packaging with me in my suitcase and was able to repackage the gifts before giving. 16 Dec. 2009 OW.

They give wonderful service. 


22 Feb. 2011- Terrible Tuesday
At Christchurch's main department store Ballantynes aftershocks started immediately and people began helping each other down to the ground floor where it was a complete mess. The glass doors had caved in and there was glass everywhere. Some men smashed through what was left and forced the frames out of the way. We threw ourselves out onto the street and gathered in the centre of the road which was split by the earthquake. Those who had escaped walked to Hagley Park where they waited for someone to ''tell them what to do''.

Ballantynes is likely to remain closed for six to nine months but its objective is to reopen in the central city, executive director Richard Ballantyne says. Its Christchurch International Airport store was "very busy", the business was strengthening its online sales and would produce a catalogue. Ballantynes department store in Timaru will take on more staff and stock in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. About a dozen Christchurch employees were now based at the Timaru store. "More are likely to come." The Timaru branch had been frantic since the February 22 earthquake. "We're trying to do everything we can to help while the Christchurch store gets back on its feet." Every day has been a new challenge, but for many of the Christchurch staff who have come down here, just getting a good night's sleep has been heartening."  "We have today the first really bright ray of sunshine for central-city businesses," Parker said. Department store Ballantynes would play a lead role by reopening on October 29 2011, a week before Cup and Show Week.

Timaru Herald 28/03/2011
This has also been a time when a lot of people have learnt to shine, with staff pulling together for one cause. Timaru Ballantynes -  We were the call centre for over a month, taking all the Christchurch calls. ... There were the hundreds and hundreds of calls we had, people asking was this the death knell of our business. The fire (November 1947) was always seen as the biggest challenge of our history, it took 10 years to trade past that. But the family and shareholders and staff all feel the same way, that 130 years of trade will not be compromised. We will stand tall and we will trade through it, but it will take quite some time and our model will have to change a little bit, in order to meet the future needs of Christchurch and the wider community.  

Stuff Business Day 19/02/2011 published 2 days before the earthquake on terrible Tuesday, closed Ballantyne's in the CBD CHCH
Ballantynes, a conservative yet bold retail survivor, has a new captain at the helm but plans to remain an essential part of Christchurch's CBD experience. In Christchurch terms, the great ocean liner must be Ballantynes. Take its sharp, white corners as the prow. Scan the horizon for hazards: earthquakes and aftershocks, a recession that refuses to lift, the ever-multiplying suburban malls. None of those hazards has been - to keep pushing the metaphor - the fatal iceberg, although many other stores have gone under. Retail historians tote up the casualties in Christchurch. Off the top of Richard Ballantyne's head, there was Hays, Millers, DIC, Beaths, Drayton Jones, Armstrongs. Those and others have vanished. These are crucial times for Ballantynes and not just because of the difficult economic - and even geological - environment. There is a changing of the guard, one of the most significant - perhaps the most significant - in the business's 156 years. The business is privately- owned with large family shareholdings. Previously, succession was about grooming a family member. Richard Ballantyne took over as managing director from his uncle, Campbell Ballantyne, in 1996, but he already had spent about 30 years on the shop floor in various roles. Campbell Ballantyne had succeeded his uncle, Roger Ballantyne. Before that, Ronald Ballantyne, Kenneth Ballantyne, William Ballantyne. People will wonder how it has managed to keep going when a lot around it has failed. If you work here, it is a culture that has built up over time around some very good business principles. The firm has not really veered from them. And when it does veer from them, it gets rapped on the knuckles very, very quickly by the customer. It might sound prosaic but a very liberal returns policy is part of that - one way of creating loyalty. Ballantyne suspects that eight out of 10 customers become lifelong shoppers as a result. That returns policy is an example of going the extra mile. Loyalty is legendary. You hear stories of Ballantynes shoppers following its daily ads on page two of The Press so closely that, on the rare occasion the ad has not appeared, they phone the store to check everything is OK. The older, starchier Ballantynes world was described in Gordon Ogilvie's commissioned history, Ballantynes: The Story of Dunstable House 1854-2004. As recently as the 1970s, there was a rigid dress code for staff: wearers of two-piece suits must wear coats at all times in public view; three- piece-suit wearers could lose the coat if the waistcoat was fully buttoned-up. The 1980s were tough, in New Zealand generally and Christchurch especially. It was the era in which many of Ballantynes' rivals disappeared and also one of the points at which the board considered a shift to the suburbs - Riccarton was mooted. Crucially, the store opted to stay put in town. When asked why Ballantynes survived when others failed, Richard Ballantyne is adamant that the narrowed horizons in the decades after the 1947 fire are, paradoxically, one of the reasons why the business is still here. "This firm stuck to its knitting because it had to, because it was literally rising out of the ashes. It had to be very, very careful and very, very good at what it did. Others got tempted out to the suburbs, found that the critical mass wasn't right or had to invest too much out there in stock relative to the return or revenues. Others tried to go to the North Island and failed. As a major city retailer, Ballantynes is often read as a barometer of commercial health more generally. Across the stores in Christchurch, Timaru and at Christchurch Airport, the firm employs 430 staff, going up to about 470 at Christmas - down a little from a reported 480 in 2008. 

This leadlight window and the one above the main entrance were originally over the shop doors of The Victoria House J. Ballantyne & Co. LTD. which was located on this site from 1913-1986. Located at the back of the store on the way out to the car park on Canon St. 

20 Nov. 2008 Public toilets were not the only place Timaruvians could turn to if home was too far when nature called. Ballantynes assistant manager said the store has had toilets since it opened 125 years ago. "It's always been a service for our customers." She said anyone could use their toilets because everyone was a potential customer. She said the toilets were safe and clean and people would probably prefer using them to public toilets.

Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 24 December 1901, Page 2
After all we spend nearly a third of our time in bed, and comfortable material to rest on is a great desideratum. Messrs Ballantyne and Co., being up to the times, are aware of this and offer all sorts of exceptional advantages in this peculiar direction. We call special attention to their fresh advertisement appearing elsewhere.

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