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Article - The Independent

Coy moves in to take the stress out of moving in

A new Auckland-based company is taking the hassle out of shifting house, a life experience dubbed the third most stressful after death and divorce.

The Finishing Touch says it can turn your new house into a home in just one day. Compared to the average four weeks it takes peopIe to unpack unassisted, director Vanessa Godbaz says the service is a godsend for busy households.

Started in Australia in 1995 by businesswoman Susan Williams, Godbaz has bought the licence to run the service in New Zealand. She set up shop last month. The company already has 50 casual trained unpackers, mainly women aged between 35 and 55, in nine cities and regions throughout the country.

Godbaz says setting up in New Zealand was eased by the Australian success. The Australian company won the 1998 Australian Telstra/Victorian Government Small Business of the Year Awards in the under 50 employees category. It has doubled its revenue each year and now has turnover of $A1.3 million.

Williams was working in the removal industry in Melbourne when she realised there was a gap in the market for an unpacking service. She set up The Finishing Touch, with the help of her mother and sisters, initially running the business from a room in her house.

The company has no sales or marketing force. Instead it relies on moving and relocation companies, real estate companies and human resources personnel in corporate firms to offer the services to their clients.

In New Zealand, Godbaz says she is targeting corporates as the company's initial core customers. Executives and their families moving between countries are a significant source of business for the Australian company.

Godbaz says Williams intends to expand the services worldwide after visits to London and New York revealed there was nothing else like it on offer.

Unpacking staff are almost all women, with the exception of a few husband and wife teams. Many of them left the workforce to raise families and now find re-employment difficult. In Australia, 15% of unpackers are former clients who used The Finishing Touch for their own move and a large number are corporate wives. We pick people with some flair and imagination. They also have to be pretty unflappable," Godbaz says.

So how do the unpackers know, where to put everything? Clients are grilled at the beginning of the process to find out everything from what side of the bed they sleep on to how tall they are to ensure essential items are put within reach, especially in the kitchen.

It's not just about unpacking boxes. In some cases, the women do everything from ironing to babysitting.

One client in Australia, the head of a television channel, moved inter-state by himself with his family due to follow later. As well as unpacking and setting up his new home, The Finishing Touch filled his fridge with food and ironed enough shirts to last him a week.

Going the extra mile is an important part of the service. "People are under extreme stress when they move house. You're dealing with people's personal and private things."

Despite the stress involved, the average New Zealander moves 15 times in his/her lifetime. Over 600,000 New Zealanders move house each year and a typical move uses over 95 cartons and includes 40 cubic metres of goods.

Interview with Robyn Firebrace
The Independent 19 December 1998

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