Laidlaw, Robert Alexander Crookston

Laidlaw Robert resize

Robert Alexander Crookston Laidlaw - CBE

Scots-born Christian fundamentalist Robert Laidlaw launched a mail-order business, Laidlaw Leeds, in Auckland, in 1909, along the lines of the US mail-order companies Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck.

It boomed with the growth in dairying and the expansion of the railways, dealing wholesale with the farming community only.

Laidlaw Leeds merged with its main rival, the Auckland-based co-operative, the Farmers' Union Trading Company, in 1918, laying the foundation for the country's largest department-store operator, known after 1926 as the Farmers' Trading Company.

The business' success owed much to Laidlaw's entrepreneurship and ability to persuade the directors in 1919 to introduce credit selling and go retail.