Martin Dippie, Chairman of one of NZ’s 10 largest cooperatives, was our guest speaker prior to the Annual Awards Dinner held in Christchurch on 14th August and provided an absorbing and lively presentation on the successful evolution and growth of his cooperative in NZ since 1974.
Martin started his first business aged 14 when he and his brother harvested Ponga logs from the Catlin’s forests on Otago. He brought his first North Dunedin student investment house in 1984, aged 17, and steadily built up a portfolio of over 30 student properties over the next few years. In 1987 Martin and his brother purchased a family garden retail business known as Nichols. They grew this business substantially by opening 7 days a week and adding a landscaping division.
In 1994 Martin bought 3 Dunedin Mitre 10 stores and 3 years later relocated 2 of these to Anderson’s Bay Rd by opening a large Home Centre-style store. This business soon grew into one of the largest Mitre 10 stores in NZ and won numerous industry awards. Bigger things were to follow however.
In 2004 Mitre 10 opened its first Mega store and since then has repositioned the business nationally by opening 41 Mega stores, while also serving NZ’s smaller town and cities with another 41 non-Mega stores. Mitre 10 today is a proud collection of locally owned businesses with annual sales in excess of $1.4 billion while employing over 5,000 staff. The members of this cooperative are the 82 store owners who leverage upon their combined buying power by purchasing the majority of their building materials and other products from the parent company.
Martin was elected onto the board of Mitre10 NZ Ltd in 1995 in his late 20’s and over the past 23 years has worked hard to ensure that Mitre 10 has a resilient world-class cooperative business model that can effectively compete with much larger international corporate retailers.
The Mitre 10 brand is part of New Zealand’s DIY DNA. Many New Zealanders have grown up with Mitre 10 and trust the brand so much so that it has been awarded the most trusted brand in New Zealand home improvement retailing on five occasions. That trust comes from customers knowing that this is a locally owned cooperative that plays a valuable role in the communities in which it operates by providing significant funding for uniquely NZ projects such as the Mitre 10 Takahe Rescue project, the New Zealander of the Year – Community of the Year Award, and the Neurological Foundation’s Annual Appeal – on top of many individual projects supported by their local stores that support their respective local communities. Mitre 10 is also the title sponsor of the NZ Rugby Union’s men’s and women’s National Domestic Championship that is currently underway.
It was good to hear Martin refer back to Mitre 10’s strong cooperative values such as 100% Member ownership and control, financial benefits provided to Members on the basis of the amount of business transacted in a year (from within the buying group), benefits retained locally here in NZ, social responsibility and giving back to local communities, driving environmental and social sustainability (the latter in relation to housing), and working collaboratively. This was an inspirational address by one of NZ’s most passionate and committed cooperative leaders to over 100 Cooperative Business NZ members and supporters in the room. Great stuff Martin.