Business Profiles

by Paper Plus

last updated 14/09/2023

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Locally Loved Since 1983

by Paper Plus

last updated 14/09/2023

Paper Plus celebrates 40 years of serving communities throughout New Zealand

Karen and Simon Gibb, Paper Plus Blenheim

The theme for Paper Plus as it celebrates its 40th birthday this year is Locally Loved – and there’s no better description of the place that the brand has in the hearts of New Zealanders. Founded in 1983, Paper Plus is unusual in that it’s a co-operative owned and operated by its franchisees.

With 95 stores around the country from city centres to rural townships, the love flows both ways, with local franchisees keen to help the communities they serve with books, magazines, toys, gifts and stationery – among other things.

In beautiful Wanaka, Chris Lumsden has run the local Paper Plus for 25 years, joining the local franchisee to change direction after being a bank manager in Nelson. ‘Back when I started, Wanaka was just a small town of maybe 1,200 people – today, it’s almost 10,000,’ Chris says. ‘But right from the start we threw ourselves into the community, supporting new events and seeing how we could help as the town grew.’

Warbirds Over Wanaka brought a huge influx to the town every two years, so locals created an arts festival to fill the years in between – and Paper Plus was right there supporting it from the start. The same happened for the Mountain Film & Book Festival, where Chris runs pop-up shops selling books at the various events. ‘No matter what the cause, if anyone comes to us, we’ll try to help,’ says Chris.

Rewarding creativity

In many cases, that means getting creative. ‘Our local St John Ambulance service was struggling to cope with the town’s growth, so we started a gift-wrapping service with all the proceeds going to St John. We sell a lot of books and toys, and of course we sell wrapping paper too, so by wrapping for a donation we have raised thousands.

‘Being a book shop, we host book launches and author signings sometimes. Publishers give you a discount for those, but we said, “Hold on, let’s do it differently – we’ll run the event, St John can be the hosts, and we’ll give the discount on every book sold to them.” Other times, with local authors, we’ve let them choose the charity to benefit.

‘What yougive away on things like this, you get back in spades. When Covid happened, everybody in Wanaka did what they could for each other to keep local businesses going, and we really appreciated that. Queenstown has big box shopping over the hill, all the big retailers, but people come to us instead because we are locally owned and locally loved. That makes a big difference.’

Meet your market

Of course, being part of the co-operative Paper Plus franchise gives Chris some of the big store buying power, too. ‘Take Lego, for example. They are quite careful about who they let become Lego retailers, but Paper Plus has a deal with them and it’s been great for us – in fact, we’re the biggest Lego shop in the group, and people come to Wanaka from Queenstown because of the range we stock.

‘That’s the beauty of Paper Plus,’ explains Chris, who also sits on the company’s Board. ‘As a franchisee, you have flexibility to tweak your offering to suit the local market and what you are passionate about. And with the co-operative structure, you all help each other out. It really is like one great big family.’

Wide-ranging offer

In Blenheim, Karen Gibb and her husband Simon might be relatively new franchisees, having bought into their Paper Plus in 2019, but she has worked in the store for a massive 28 years.

‘I started as a sales rep, calling on local businesses and helping them with their stationery needs. That’s a part of the business many people don’t realise we even do,’ she laughs. ‘Then I became store manager for five years or so, and when the owners asked if we’d like to buy in, we both said “Yes!” immediately, without even looking at each other. We know what a wonderful business this is, and what a happy place it is to walk into.

‘Someone said to me the other day, “I can’t believe how welcome we feel every time we come into your store,” and that’s so good to hear. Our staff feel it too – we’ve had people leave to try other things and then call a few weeks later and say, “Can we come back?” It’s just such a nice place to work, with nice clean products and happy customers. Like many Paper Plus outlets, we are also a NZ Post Shop and a Lotto Shop, so there’s something for everyone.’

Everyone knows us

Like Chris, Karen says the locally owned aspect is important. ‘I’ve got someone else to do the sales rep side now, but everyone in the business community knows us and they appreciate that what they spend in the community stays in the community.

‘It’s the same with parents. We do back-to-school packs for nearly all the local schools, and a rebate from each pack sold goes straight to the school to help their fund-raising. If they come to us wanting help with an event, we’ll always find something.’ And with the Marlborough Book Festival now in its 10th year, Paper Plus is right behind that, too. ‘We have 16 authors and 22 events this year, and we’re the official bookseller so it will be a busy time. Of course, we also support local authors throughout the year, so there’s always something going on.

‘Our sign-written car gets waves wherever it goes, and I can’t walk round the supermarket without people coming up to say hello. Paper Plus really is Locally Loved.’

How lucky are you?

Carrie Welch, Chief Operations and Customer Officer for Paper Plus, says that Paper Plus is looking for owners for both new and existing stores.

‘Investment levels vary according to location. Full training and support are provided, and our community of franchisees is always happy to lend a hand, too.

‘If you’d like to own a store offering a locally-tailored range of products for home, office and education, contact me now.’

And Karen has the last word. ‘What would I tell anyone thinking of buying a Paper Plus store? I’d tell them how lucky they are to have the opportunity to join such a well-loved and profitable brand.’   

See this advertorial on page 42-43 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 32 Issue 3

Contact details for Paper Plus

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