Wednesday, September 23, 2009

International Trade Library no.6 Better By Design Media Library

Photo from Better By Design website.

Well it may be stretching things a bit to call this an international trade library! However it does hold and make available resources which a TraLIS should know about. Better By Design is a New Zealand organisation set up to assist the design needs of businesses including exporting companies. Brett Hewlett (pictured) from Comvita a company which focuses on bee-derived health products and which exports to China, Hong Kong and Australia, is featured in one of the videos which can be watched at:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bing Harris & Co - trade history

Sir Jack Harris Bt died on August 29, 2009 aged 103. Sir Jack made a huge impact as a pioneering manufacturer and civic leader in New Zealand, and was chief executive of importing/exporting company Bing Harris and Co.
In 2007 he wrote Memoirs of a century, in which he remembered events and people across his life. There is no pretence that this is a scholarly work and Sir Jack is the source of all that is included. It is indexed and this does help the reader to refind references to companies and places.
Bing Harris and Co. was established in Dunedin in the mid-1850s and Wolf Harris, Sir Jack’s grandfather began by importing goods from Melbourne. The discovery of gold in Central Otago meant that Dunedin developed quickly and that there was a market that needed the goods, largely clothing, that Bing Harris offered.
Before WW II it became clear to Sir Jack that the company should become a manufacturer of clothing and this proved to be a profitable move in the wartime period. After the war New Zealand economic policy focused on self-sufficiency – everything should be produced in NZ. To do this raw materials had to be imported. Of course the United Kingdom continued to be an important source, but it is suggested that Bing Harris were one of the first postwar importers from Japan, with contacts also being made in North America, India and Hong Kong.
Bing Harris had factories in Wanganui, New Plymouth, Christchurch, Auckland, Levin and Palmerston North. It also diversified into motor accessories .
Shortly after the war Sir Jack went to Japan to establish business contacts and his deputy George Milne followed. Arising out of that visit the trade in forest logs was opened up and Bing Harris obtained the agency for the logs from the Nissho company.
There is much anecdotal writing included which is to be expected in a volume of memoirs: comments on political figures both here and in the UK, the Harris’s house Te Rama at Waikanae and a piece written by Sir Jack’s wife, Patricia.
For the trade historian, Memoirs is a taster, and a full biography of Sir Jack, or a company history of Bing Harris will I am sure fill in many gaps.
Sir Jack Harris Bt: memoirs of a century. Steele Roberts, 2007. ISBN 978-1-877448-04-1

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Trade Librarian and Trade History

Photo: Chinese garden - Dunedin 27 August 2009 / Graeme Siddle.

Last month I was on holiday and visited Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. We visited the new Chinese Garden which was opened in 2008 located near the Early Settlers' Museum and Railway Station. As can be seen from the photo it looks new, the rocks and structures have not developed any coverings such as moss or lichens and the plantings are all young. This photo shows new growth on the willows.

There is a wall near the entrance listing supporters and benefactors - one of these has been the Sew Hoy Family - well-known in Dunedin's business circles. The Sew Hoys were a long established Dunedin Chinese family, and Hugh Sew Hoy formed a company Sew Hoy and Sons in 1958 for the manuafacture of clothing. Between then and its closure in 1989 the company esstablished five factories in the Otago region and one in Christchurch. The company employed up to 600 staff and won an export award in 1971 and formed substantial overseas holdings chiefly in clothing.

Because the company relied heavily on New Zealand's protective tariffs, when these were reduced from 1988 this impacted badly on the company and Sew Hoy and Sons in New Zealand was placed in receivership in December 1989.

For 30 years the Sew Hoy company had been a major employer in Otago. Hugh Sew Hoy did not want to shift the company's Head Office and manufacturing elsewhere. He also had great pride in the accomplishments of his grandafather Choie Sew Hoy.

Information source: retrieved August 18th 2009.

Unlike the Sew Hoy story, there is a great deal of unwritten trade history in New Zealand and maybe in other countries as well. Is it the role of the trade library and information professional to collect and preserve it? What are we doing about this in our own companies and organisations?