The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
Wellington has for several years had the name of being the most progressive city in the Colony. Doubtless there is some measure of justice in the term, but it may, nevertheless, be very misleading. It is true that as a centre for large who lesale businesses, no colonial firm of importance can afford to overlook the claims of Wellington. Its unique position in relation to the whole Colony, as the key to the West Coast of both Islands by sea, and both coasts of the North Island by rail, must give to the Capital an ever-increasing advantage. Then there are certain inherent benefits from the simple fact that it is the capital. The large manufacturing firms of Great Britain well know the prestige that follows the establishment of a London “house,” even if it be but ten feet square, and all the business be transacted by a junior clerk. And, in a much smaller degree, the same influence is at work in New Zealand. The strides made in this direction lately are most noticeable, and it will not be long before the large wholesale houses will recognise that they may as well be out of New Zealand as out of Wellington. The banks and insurance companies have struggled hard to keep their headquarters in other parts of the Colony, but the struggle is over, and a great victory has been scored by the Capital. The whole of the banks have now their head offices at the Empire City, and the insurance companies which are holding back will soon discover the error. Wonderful advances are being made by companies whose quarters have been carried to the Capital by this flowing tide. Nothing but a return of the earthquakes can stop Wellington's advance as the commercial, as well as the political, head of the Colony; and though earthquake forces are most erratic in their operations, and though half a century is but a moment of time to them, there is no evidence that Wellington now stands in greater jeopardy in this matter of earthquakes than does any other part of the Colony.
But notwithstanding that Wellington undoubtedly possesses exceptional facilities forextensive commercial enterprises, it is by no means a “happy hunting-ground” for retail business firms. There are eight or ten really fine retail establishments, which are none too large for the business that commonly and constantly comes in their way; but page 232 speaking generally of the others, it is within the truth that if half of them were closed, the remaining moiety could do the trade- without an appreciable increase of premises, stock, or staff. Prices are good, and consequently the profits would be most encouraging if only a reasonable turnover could be secured. The cause of this unsatisfactory condition of affairs is within easy search, everyone expects that Wellington will go ahead wonderfully, and that sooner or later it must be a splendid place, even for retail business; and so they hold on, keeping open long hours, and cutting expenses down to the lowest possible point, in the hope of ultimate success, just as miners will toil on for only the colour of gold, in the hope of unearthing a nugget, or striking a rich lead. That some are beginning to reap the reward of patience, is beyond doubt: but there is a mournful procession of would-be thrivers, who come to Wellington with a few pounds, enter into business, watch the people pass their doors for a month or two, and then pack up and leave the place, disappointed, if not entirely crushed. It is no exaggeration to say that there are at least a dozen fairly handsome shops in the very heart of the City whose constantly changing tenants have hai dly had a payable month in the last five years. The public smile aS a new man puts up his sign, and say, “Poor fellow! How long will this one last?” The compilers of the Cyclopedia have exceptional opportunities of gaining information on these points, and in portraying the Colony they accept it as a duty to record the results of then investigations, whatever they may be.