MUNNS - OUR HISTORY
FOUNDER - 1918. E. E. Munns
In 1918, after an unsuccessful search for work following the end of WWI, Ernest Munns opened a small menswear shop at 257 Manchester Street in Christchurch. He started out as a one-man operation but was soon doing well enough to hire a sales assistant called Carl Smith.
Mr Carl Smith
During the next few years as Mr Munns health deteriorated, Mr Smith took a greater responsibility in running the shop and managed it after Mr Munns died in 1927.
In the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, there was no money to waste on non-essentials such as heating so winter was tough for retailers who managed to keep trading. “We found it very difficult to keep warm because we couldn’t afford the heating for the whole shop,” Carl Smith remembered. "All we had was a small heater in the tiny cubby-hole we used for lunch.”
“So we decided to buy a skipping rope and we set up a competition between the two of us, Noel Hapgood and myself. “I believe we got up to 1500 skips without a break and we did all the fancy steps, crossovers and the like.”
“Customers were invited to join in and a number of them did!”
Times were tough during the Depression - there were days when the till scarcely opened and Carl Smith was forced to peddle clothing at one of the local freezing works. But the business survived and by 1933 it was doing well enough to move to central city premises at the corner of Colombo and Gloucester streets - which in time became known as ‘Munns Corner”
Business was quiet during the first year and Mr Smith felt the move may have been a mistake but trade picked up in 1934 and two years later Carl Smith felt it was time to modernise the shop.
In 1940 Carl Smith bought the business and over the next few years he bought the two adjoining shops in order to establish a tailoring workshop.
In 1965 - leveraging off his association with the famous English suit hire company Moss Bros - Carl Smith established the suit hire business which has become a central pillar of the Munns brand.
Munns - Cnr Gloucester and Columbo St, Christchurch
Munns continued operating on Colombo Street until the mid-1980’s when the building was earmarked for demolition. It was at this stage that Carl Smith, having been involved in Munns for over 60 years, sold the business to Barry Souter and his then partner David Corn. In 1987 the business moved to 154 Armagh Street, Christchurch and in 1993 Barry Souter took over the sole ownership of the business.
In June 1997 the Suit Hire aspect of the business was further expanded and moved to a new location at 150 Armagh Street.
By August 2002 Munns was doing so well the directors decided to expand into the North Island. At its zenith Munns the Man's Store had six branches- three of them in Auckland and one each in Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch. This expansion brought into the Company another shareholder, Peter Lucas.
Munns went from strength to strength over the next ten years or so and even managed to weather the devastation wrought by the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. The earthquake destroyed the company's head office and its flagship store on Armagh Street but fortunately there were no injuries and before long Munns' Christchurch branch of trading again out of premises at Tower Junction.
Later on that year, Barry Souter retired and Wally Wilson took over his interest and directorship in the company.
In the ensuing years, however, Munns faced an increasingly difficult retail environment and in May 2019 Munns' directors Peter Lucas and Wally Wilson made the difficult decision to liquidate the company - citing the 'casualisation of menswear' and the arrival of global high-street brands as the primary reason for Munns' decline. But the Munns story was far from over. In 2019 Mark and Susan Waterson - owners of Balmoral Suit Hire in Auckland - bought the rights and trademark and began trading as Munns the Man's Store on 24 February 2020 at The Tannery, a boutique shopping and entertainment complex on Garlands Road in Christchurch.
The Watersons initially planned to run Munns as a suit hire business and to slowly introduce retail. But along came COVID-19 and the weddings, balls and functions which form the backbone of a suit hire business were cancelled or postponed. Not people to give up easily the Watersons plunged into retail sooner than they expected and Munns not only survived - it thrived. Mark and Susan have worked tirelessly to maintain the things that customers always loved about Munns - the friendly and knowledgeable service, the attention to detail, the integrity and the top brands - while updating and refreshing the store with exciting new brands and product lines. And that's not all - Mark and Susan have since opened two new Munns Stores - one at 1/15 Rawene Road, Birkenhead Auckland (Opened November 2022) and one at 149 Victoria Street, Central City, Christchurch (Opened October, 2023). With the Watersons at the helm Munns the Man's Store is back and its better than ever.