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Archibald Clark & Sons, Limited.


Thk hand of time lias rubbed out the names of nearly all the mercantile firms whose history began with the founding of the colony's capital. Of the many soft-goods houses dating back to the first decade but one has survived, but it is a healthy survival with all, and perhaps a little more, of the vigour of its pristine youth. The founder of the firm, the late MiArchibald Clark, was a Scot of the enterprising sort who was bound to make his mark in any community, and he built up a business which had assumed large proportions by the time his sons were old enough to take their s! are in its conduct. He bequeathed to his children and his grandchildren those high commercial qualities which make for success, and the concern which he guided through all the perils of the old colonial days has now grown to dimensions which would probably have staggered him had any astrologer possessed the power to lay bare the future before him. It is worthy of note that the expansion if the main business, i.e., the wholesale department, has been effected on the original site, by the acquisition of adjoining sections. The present main entrance of the great warehouse in Shortland-street occupies the exact position of the original front door of Mr Archibald Clark's tentative enterprise. The land is therefore in a very real sense the native >oil of the Clark family and its branches. The eldest son of the founder who had the chief direction of the business for many years, the late Mr James McCosh Clark, was one of Auckland's most prominent citizens, and was several times Mayor of the city. His two sous are now associated in the active control of the business, with his two brothers, Messrs Arch, and Matthew Clark, and his nephew, Mr Stephenson. The business was converted into a limited liability company some years ago in order to determine the

many individual interests, but none of the shares are outside the family.

The wholesale business has grown enormously of late years, but the feature of the business which serves to differentiate the new era from the old is the manufacturing branch. Whereas at one time the firm imported all iis clothing, both outer and under wear, the bulk of passes out of their own hands in these days is the product of their own factories, of which they operate no less than four. Beginning with the manufacture of men's and boy's clothing about a quarter of a century ago, the making of shirts was added some five years later, both industries being carried on at the back of the wholesale premises. On aocount of the increase in demand the shirt department had to be separated and provided with a factory for itself in Grey Lynn, while the clothing industry soon found a new home at Eden Terrace. Then new developments led to the erection of a third factory for the making of ladies' underclothing, blouses and costumes in Albert-street. Lately a fourth factory lias been installed for the production of tents and bags (for seeds, manures, etc.). The total number of hands employed in the four factories varies from 500 to 600, and the organisation is now so complete that the very highest quality of goods is produced in each. The warehouse is in itself aji epitome of the colony's textile fabrics made up. If we take account of the imported goods, the show, is a veritable Exhibition. Two of the firm's brands have become household words throughout the Dominion, namely, the " Chief," which distinguishes the clothing, and the " Zealandia," which is a guarantee of excellence in the matter of shirts, whether linen, cotton, wool, or silk, collars, and underclothing.

The business of A. Clark and Sons was, as already mentioned, for many years confined to importing, but the firm had long realised that it was incumbent upon them, as upon others, to lend their aid in the promotion of local industry. The venture was necessarily of a somewhat .speculative character for some years. The proper methods, the adjustment of means to ends, and the difficulty of turning out articles which, while commending themselves fco the consuming public should at the same time afford a reasonable return for the large amount of capital invested, were matters which necessarily demanded time, patience, keen observation and skill. To a, great extent the new departure was a leap in the dark. There were few examples from which information or encouragement were to be obtained. The colony had never up to that time enjoyed any prolonged period of unalloyed prosperity such as that through which we have been happily passing during the last dozen years or so. Few who realise at the present day" the enormous growth of Auckland's commercial prosperity can realise how few were the opportunities presented for trade expansion twenty or twenty-five years ago. The prices of our staple products generally were low, the dairy industry had not been started, meat freezing whs in its infancy, and the settlement of the lands of the province was hampered by the stringency of the public finance no less than by the persistent native "difficulty." It required some boldness aim a healthy constructive imagination to launch out on the large scale adopted by the Messrs Clark. But the results have more than justified their courage and foresight. In the beginning, as at intervals since, the want of thoroughly efficient labour was felt. Tn the shirt factory the fi«in was greatly hampered at the start by the scarcity of skilled laundry hands and methods, but this disability w as soon overcome, and the "make-up" of the " Zealandia " white shirts and collars today will compare more tha.n favourably with that of the imported article. it is indeed a quite uncommon circumstance to see any import-

ed white shirts nowadays ; certainly there exists no need for their importation.

No one who visits the factories of Messrs A. Clark and Sons can fail to be struck with the quality and modernity of the multifarious machinery in use there. The fullest use has been made of electrical power. About five years ago the manager of the shirt factory was sent to Great Britain with a view to familiarising himself with all the latest improvements, and he brought back with him nl.i the newest appliances in laboursaying machines, including an electric cutter and machine for branding the collars, work which is done by hand in other factories. Also a machine for making the fashionable folding collars. The effect of the new cutter id that whereas it was only possible to cut cloth five dozi.ii thick by hand, about from fifteen to twenty dozen thick can now be cut, and in about a quarter ot the time. A most c\ mmendable feature of business is the attention paid to the comfort of the employees. A now dining room has recently been ud(Jeil to the Grey Lynn factory, and in ail ways possible the firm aim at making the working hours of the hands pleasant. Every year the various staffs are entertained at a picnic for which the firm provides the steamer and donate most of the prizes, and these outings are thoroughly appreciated. The various factories are controlled by competent heads. The manager of the shirt factory is Mr R. G. Collins ; Mr H. C. Clark presides over the underclothing factory ; that for the making of men's and boys' clothing is in charge of Mr Lyon, while Mr Lockwood superintends the tent and bag factory. The warehouse in Shortland-street has been a particularly busy place during the past week or so, as, owing to the arrival of the American Fleet, the opening of the Spring seasons has had to be antedated. Spring millinery which is of a character not usually associated with the keen and moist squalls of August must nevertheless brave the elements under conditions so auspicious, and the same remark applies to dresses, etc., and many even of the habiliments affected by the sterner sex.

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Archibald Clark & Sons, Limited. Observer, Volume XXVIII, Issue 48, 15 August 1908

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