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Hot Kiwi company comes back across the ditch

Holy Sheet! Hot Kiwi company comes back across the ditch

New Zealanders Edmund George and Danny Hochberg are two of the hottest names in Australian business – but they’re virtually unknown at home.

The pair are the brains behind holySheet!, an irreverent linen and homewares chain which is one of the fastest growing franchises in Australia.

Now the 40-something businessmen are bringing their company home; holySheet! has just opened two stores in Auckland, and has plans for a rapid expansion through New Zealand.

George and Hochberg are graduates of Victoria University’s School of Business Administration. They did their apprenticeships in the heady business world of the 1980s, George with bedding manufacturer Snugfleece and Hochberg with international marketing agency Ogilvy and Mather and British-based sweet manufacturer Rowntree.

In August 1990 they joined forces and opened the doors of the first holySheet! store, in Newtown, Sydney, offering good-quality sheets and towels alongside rubber ducks, wacky pyjamas, kids’ toys and anything else that took their fancy.

The formula worked; the pair had to double the floor size almost immediately. By 2000, when they started franchising, there were seven company stores. In 2004 Englishman Nick Hillyard joined the management team, and today there are 25 outlets across Australia, 24 of them franchises. Earlier this year the company was named Australian bedlinen retailer of the year.

The Auckland franchise for holySheet! has been bought by Tony and Melanie Paulsen, expatriate New Zealanders living in Sydney wanting to come home and looking for a way to put their retailing experience to work for them.

“We’ve been in retailing all our working lives – most of it in Auckland,” said Tony Paulsen, who spent two years as national merchandising and marketing manager with Dick Smith Electronics in Australia, and before that was the company’s New Zealand merchandising manager.

It was Melanie Paulsen who spotted the potential of holySheet! After selling a successful Auckland travel agency, she was concentrating on raising a young family and enjoying shopping Sydney-style when she found holySheet!

“I knew immediately that holySheet! was the right move for us,” she said.

“There’s nothing like it here, but it is run by New Zealanders and really fits into the New Zealand psyche. The company is built on supplying good-quality, well-made products but at the same time it pokes a bit of stick at the whole interior decorating thing. I just love it.”

The first New Zealand store opened in Ponsonby Rd last month and the second on Newmarket’s Broadway earlier this month.

Tony Paulsen says that they expect to have five stores in Auckland within three years.

“Ultimately we believe there is the potential for 12 to 14 stores in the Auckland region, and we’ll be looking to franchise some of those,” he said.

The company is also looking for franchisees for other parts of the country, including Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Tauranga and Nelson.

holySheet! will formally introduce itself to the Auckland business community this Wednesday at a cocktail party at the Newmarket store, which will be attended by holySheet! director Nick Hillyard.


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