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Success a lot more than skin deep


New Zealand’s oldest nationwide department store has undergone quite a transformation over the last few years. Farmers has always been respected, but now it’s fast becoming a store that also surprises and delights its customers with a fresh make-over that is more than just skin deep.

Not only does Farmers look great at 106 years-old, the business has firmly put the focus on top quality staff and service because that, along with a wide range of quality merchandise including luxury cosmetics brands, is what attracts and keeps customers coming back.

Last year, Farmers Learning and Development Manager Michelle Maidens, joined the retail business and worked with ServiceIQ to upskill 800 staff on-job at stores around the country in the New Zealand Certificate in Retail (Level 2) training programme. Two years earlier, Farmers had already started training staff in ServiceIQ’s Level 4 qualification.

“Skilled staff are critical for the business. The products and prices might be right, but if customers don’t enjoy really good service, they will choose to shop elsewhere,” says Michelle.

“A lot of work has gone into the positioning. We want to be the most recognisable retail brand of choice that New Zealanders can rely on to buy great quality at a reasonable price.”

The iconic New Zealand business has a big appetite for a capable workforce, and gaining a qualification steps people up nicely, says Michelle.

“We start training people on their first day with us, and we continue to develop the skills for many of our people through to management level. Ultimately, we aim to build individual and organisational capability company wide and this includes investment in a new online learning management system to host, manage and track learning throughout the business.”

Michelle joined Farmers after 18 years at ASB, where she started out in sales and lending then moved into line management and staff learning and development.

Getting the large Farmers team on board with customer service and management training was a relatively smooth process. It was also greeted with a lot of support from store management and positive feedback from employees, says Michelle.

“We all worked together with ServiceIQ who were very supportive and everyone got signed up pretty quickly.”

Just nine months later, most staff completed their qualification and Farmers celebrated the first group to receive their certificates with a special function at the Papanui store in Christchurch. The graduates included sales assistants and managers.

“There were a lot of happy faces,” says Michelle. “As well as the satisfaction of a qualification, our staff gain relevant skills and recognition that what they do in their role each day is in line with NZQA standards.”

The celebrations will continue as more staff from Farmers’ 59 stores gain their qualifications. The business has 4,200 employees, with the majority (3,500) working in the stores.

Meanwhile, the popular brand’s strong commitment to customers and great service is doing the business: “In terms of trading, we are on target,” says Michelle.

For more information, please contact ServiceIQ on 0800 863 693 or email

Success a lot more than skin deep

Farmers Christchurch graduates Nichole Pierce, Brittany O'Donnell and Greta Brown.