DF Souvenirs

Restarting in Christchurch

  • Persistence and patience has paid off for the South Island business owners of DF Souvenirs, John Schneideman and his two sons Peter and Richard.
  • After their Christchurch store was damaged in the earthquakes, PwC has helped the family to get an insurance payout they’re happy with.

The popular Colombo Street tourist shop, which has been operating since 1968, was red stickered and prohibited from being occupied in the February 2011 earthquake. While the file server was retrieved after 10 days, it was months before remaining stock and shop fittings could be salvaged.

“We got an insurance payment for outdated stock, but when it came to the building we had tremendous hassles. Our insurers wanted to repair it and we didn’t think it was repairable, so we engaged a firm of engineers to assess it. It wasn’t until the building adjacent to us was demolished that ours too was deemed dangerous and also agreed for demolition.” says John Schneideman.

With help from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), lawyers and an independent engineering report, the Schneideman family received a progress payment to the value of indemnity and are entitled to full replacement cover to use when they are able to build again. However, the biggest battle was yet to come – their business interruption claim.

How we’ve helped

“We felt we knew what was right and insured for, but we needed professional help and assistance to get there and that’s where PwC came into the equation. Originally we were offered well below the amount that we thought we were entitled to. PwC spent 18 months doing a tremendous amount of work, going backwards and forwards and getting a wee bit more each time. In the end we got double the amount we were first offered, an outcome much more in line with our original expectations.” says Mr Schneideman.

The outcome was a huge relief after 18 months of stress, blood, sweat and tears.

“It was a very, very stressful process for the whole family. My sons Richard and Peter run the business, and while so far it hasn’t affected their income, it will. The family is still in the dark as to whether they’ll be able to rebuild on the central city land they’ve owned since 1974. They’ve been told by CERA it’s in the planned arts, culture and education precinct so may be compulsorily acquired. We want to move forward but are prohibited in doing so until we know what’s happening with our land. We really want to retain our land because there is nothing else being built in Christchurch big enough and close to retail areas. Our land is going to be next to the new conference centre and hotels; the perfect spot for us.” says Mr Schneideman.

Moving forward

As a temporary measure, DF Souvenirs opened a store in the Re:START Mall in Cashel Mall and extended its lease for a third time until June 2014. “We did it to ensure we could keep our administration staff, who also manage our Queenstown store. We expected to break-even but it’s turned out better than that – it’s profitable. It’s great but we still don’t know what will happen come next June, we don’t have a crystal ball.” says Mr Schneideman.

While they wait for the verdict on their original site, Mr Schneideman’s sons are determined to find premises in the Cashel Mall area for a second Christchurch store. “We don’t want to stand still, we want to move forward but space is limited so it’s unlikely we’ll be able to do anything for another 12 to 18 months. It is actually out of our control at this stage,” he adds.

The Schneideman family opened the first Duty Free Shop at the Christchurch Airport in the early sixties before selling to American company Duty Free Shoppers. DF Souvenirs has been operating in Christchurch for more than 45 years and Queenstown for 19 years. “We considered setting up in the North Island but believe that to be successful one of the family needs to be on site. Even though we live in a munted city, we don’t want to leave!” concludes Mr Schneideman.

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Canterbury office

T: +64 3 374 3000
F: +64 3 374 3001

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