Hirsch’s is the biggest independently owned appliance and electronics retailer in southern Africa, with stores in KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape and Gauteng. The Hirsch brand is based on a culture of quality products, well trained staff, and customer service. Allan Hirsch, founder and CEO, and Margaret Hirsch, chief operations officer, started their family run appliance business in 1979. Allan trained as an electrical appliances’ mechanic and his employer’s suggestion that Allan should go on his own, resulted in the opening of Hirsch’s Electrical Repairs in Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Durban.
Margaret says that she believed in Allan when he said that he wanted to start his own business. He added, “If you have a goal then nothing is going to stop you, it’s a combination of passion, a dream and determination.” Hirsch’s started off small, building a strong base of customers over the years, first with repairs and secondhand repaired appliances and then into a fully-fledged appliance retailer.
In 1983 Allan bought a couple of microwaves believing that this was a new must have product. He was disappointed to still have microwaves in stock at the end of the month. Hirsch’s decided to have an evening cooking demonstration and sold 11 microwaves on the first evening. “This a tipping point for Hirsch’s. If you want to get ahead have to be different from everybody else, says Margaret. “Once we got recognised for being leaders in microwaves it changed our lives.” “People started believing in supporting us and growing with us,” added Allan. 40 years later Hirsch’s is still bringing people to the stores through product demonstrations.
Due to their entrepreneurial drive, Allan and Margaret started their Home Store concept In KZN in 2000, where most home products can be purchased. This proved be a success and two years later, in 2002, they took concept to Gauteng. In April 2012, they opened their branch in Cape Town (Milnerton). Hirsch’s has a strong online presence with customers from around South Africa shopping from the online site.
Hirsch’s is a family run business with all four members the Hirsch family involved in ther day to day operations Hirsch’s managers are multi-faceted in their leadership approach to their teams and lead by example. “Our managers walk – they continually walk around the stores speaking to staff and to customers,” says Allan. This ethos extends to Margaret whose hands-on approach is apparent in that she does not have an office in any of the branches. She sits at a desk on the shop floor and helps deal with everything from staff recruitment to customer complaints and queries daily.
As a family, the Hirsch’s are a formidable force supported by their management team who have a strong commitment to the same goals. They are backed by 850 permanent employees who are as dedicated to the company. “Our business is about people - our employees, our trade partners and our customers, we have kept the three groups of people working well together,” says Allan.
“ Over the years, t he p eople a re what have made the business, and have worked together as a team. You have to have passion and always have the result in mind,” says Lallie Maharaj, National Service Manager. “Hirsch is very transparent. Our staff knows exactly what is going on all the time which makes them feel comfortable with us and makes them feel part of the family. The values of honesty, loyalty and integrity form the basis of all our interactions,” explains Margaret. The company spends a lot of time focusing on training and upskilling employees who buy into a culture and are developed as leaders to share the Hirsch’s vision. “One of the things that people can bank on when they join us is our vision to teach them more than what they will do. They must know what is happening in the business and how it operates. It is like a puzzle if one piece is missing it is incomplete,” says Amar Nundlal, branch manager Umhlanga Homestore.
Hirsch’s prides itself on its consistency. “Without customers, we would not have a company. I have been looking after our customers, their children and now their grandchildren,” says Margaret. “We deliver dreams to people, what we have, people dream about, it was what they work every single day to achieve,” says Lallie. “Educating our clients daily are part of the challenges that the business faces. Hirsch’s does not just sell, we deliver the products, we repair products, we demonstrate the products, we constantly keep in contact with clients on a one to one basis. We make sure that you buy the right product.”
Hirsch’s is based on quality and deals with the best brands. “We have brand ambassadors who are trained and know their brand and complement the whole message that we want to give out – that we are experts in our field.” Their success is evident in that in 2012, Hirsch’s turned over their first one billion rand. By the end of 2018 they had turned over their second billion.
However, the Hirsch family does not take anything for granted and are regularly involved in various charities and sponsorships. Their giving nature ensures that they constantly support the less fortunate and they are always willing to help those in need.
THE FUTURE IMPACT
Our suppliers around the world keep us up to date and invite us to trade shows which is where we see see next year’s technology this year,” says Allan.
“Technology is amazing – the question is what is next. What I do know for sure is that we are going to be one of the first people to get it out in the marketplace, and know how to use it.”