Coastlands in 1970s with Farmers and Self Help Co-op

Coastland’s First Self Help Supermarket

When the mall opened on 6 November 1969, Coastlands was one of the first shopping malls in New Zealand. Later, it became one of the first shopping centres to open on Saturdays, then one of the first to open on Sundays. But it also housed a unique New Zealand business when it opened, the first self-service retail grocery store of its kind, Self Help. In a picture, strangely reflective of today’s retail market concerned with unnecessary packaging, Self Help customers were asked to bring their own wrapping paper and string to package their purchases.

The formula was simple – no credit, no deliveries, no price fixing and no packaging.

The story began in 1921 when railway worker Benjamin Sutherland organised a co-operative shop among fellow employees for grocery items. In October 1922, Sutherland founded the Self Help Co-operative Limited. Instead of making the highest profit possible, Self-Help sold goods for the lowest possible profit.By the end of 1969, Self Help had ten supermarkets in the Wellington area with another scheduled to open in 1970.

Sutherland also lead the way in pioneering staff benefits; a liberal staff benefit fund, profit-sharing and annual bonus payments as an incentive. They also introduced sick pay, medical expenses, baby bonus and death benefit.

The Sutherland’s Self Help Trust was formed in 1962 to further fund community welfare. In that year $41,360 was distributed to 17 organisations. Since then over $28 million has been distributed. Today, the Sutherland Self Help Trust still gives grants to community organisations throughout New Zealand.

After the passing of Benjamin and his sons, in 1974 Self Help was sold to various other grocery concerns including what is now Foodstuffs – New World, Four Square and PAK’nSAVE.

One of Self Help’s most experienced and knowledgeable managers, Mr Avon Inwood, led the team at Coastlands. He started at Self Help Motueka in 1941, aged 15 and worked at their Upper Hutt, Cuba Street and Strathmore Park shops in Wellington before moving to Coastlands.

At the time of the opening, Mr Inwood said “Many people do not appreciate how complex and interesting the retail food industry has become. It is a far cry from the grocery business as I knew it as a boy. To get the maximum value from modern techniques and handle the problems of expansion in the number of lines available to the public, our company is installing a computer. This, in the long run, will produce a variety of benefits to our customers”. Avon Inwood died in 1979, aged 53. He and his wife had four children, Michael, Paul, Suzanne and Christine.

Mr Francie Dural managed the fruit and vegetable department at the Coastlands store when it opened. He described his area as having ‘modern, specially designed, produce display units with their mirrors add that additional splash of colour to achieve effective, attractive and appealing displays of fresh fruit and vegetables’.

Coastlands is celebrating its 50th birthday on 6 November 2019.