After 36 years, legendary Retra salesman calls it quits

By Patrick Avenell

After almost 36 years consecutive years as a salesman at Wauchope Retravision, Ian Carroll, a true legend of the industry, has called stumps on his fantastic career and is making the walk back to the pavilion. Carroll has been a salesman at the independent retailer non-stop since 1971, and after all those years, he has some great stories and pertinent views on the appliance retail sector.

Carroll moved to Wauchope (pronounced war-hope), a northern NSW town of 6,000, from Kempsey at a young age, and was raised and educated at the local schools. After marrying his wife, Leslie, the couple lived briefly in Sydney, before returning to their hometown to settle and raise a family. Carroll had worked briefly at the local electrical retailer, then owned by his uncle, RB Cook, before leaving, and upon his return he commenced his marathon run as the local appliance aficionado.

Tomorrow will be Carroll’s last day behind the counter, but he still speaks enthusiastically about his favourite products over the years.

“One of the biggest things of yesteryear was the Breville sandwich maker – there was nothing like that before,” said Carroll. “They were very popular, you couldn’t get one for love or money.

“These days, it’s all about plasmas and LCD – they’ve been a breath of fresh air – I really enjoy selling them.”

The products Carroll is most proud of are the Australian ones, especially Westinghouse and Kelvinator. His view is that “we the best in the marketplace”, and expressed his disappointment that so many once-local manufacturers had moved overseas. The net result has been a reduction in quality at the same rate as the reduction in price.

“People come in and buy a $39 DVD player and expect it to last 10 years,” he said.

Over the years, Carroll has always monitored the industry closely, and he spoke thoughtfully about the current turmoil facing the Retravision group, and other independent retailers. It will no doubt be difficult, but Carroll thinks survival is possible, as long as retailers focus on what independents do best.

“I do believe independents can survive, but the emphasis has to be on service. You need good product knowledge – if in doubt, grab an instruction book, there’s nothing worse than telling lies, you’ll get caught out. Keep focusing on service, deliveries and installations, that’s very important with the plasmas and LCDs.”

The years working as a salesman has enabled Carroll to raise three sons, of whom he is particularly proud. Michael, 33, is currently serving with the Australian Army in East Timor, Matthew, 31, is a diesel mechanic, and Nathan, 27, who is a welder, working back in Carroll’s birthplace, Kempsey.

For retirement, Carroll is focusing on his main hobby, collecting memorabilia, especially cricket and rugby league. Cricket has always been his passion, with a trip to the 2001 Ashes in England with Stan Gilchrist (Adam’s father) being the highlight of a life, so far, well-lived.

“I have absolutely no regrets – it’s been very good. Some of the friendships I’ve made…people come into work and say ‘hello’, and when you walk down the street you know every person, I’ll miss that most.”

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