Warren Morrison is one of the most successful Macarthur business people of the last two decades.
But the owner of Sleeping Giant in Blaxland Road grew up in Fairfield Heights, so he wasn’t always one of us.
A school excursion when he was in Year 2 to a far flung place called Campbelltown became a pivotal event in his life.
“I was proud of Fairfield, it was a great place to grow up, we had good schools, tennis courts everywhere and I rode my bike around,’’ he says.
“I came out here for a school excursion when Macarthur Square first opened; I remember it like it was yesterday.
“They took us to the information centre, and I’ll never forget it, they showed us a video of Macarthur and what it would be like in the future.
“It was gobsmacking for a young boy, these big new shopping centres, schools and even whole suburbs like Airds and Bradbury.’’
He didn’t pack his bags and move to Campbelltown there and then – Master Warren Morrison would have been only seven or eight years old after all.
However when the time came, he knew his future belonged in this neck of the woods.
Not all the plans they showed on that video that fired up his imagination have come to fruition, but Morrison says plenty have.
“The university is here, the new suburbs, the place just grew and grew,’’ he says.
His first job was in banking and Warren Morrison says he loved it.
“I always knew I wanted to be in business, so I got a job working in a bank in the city,’’ he says.
“I loved the hustle and bustle of the city and I loved investing other people’s money successfully.’’
He stayed in banking for eight years, but long before he gave it up completely, Warren Morrison got to know the world of bedding manufacturing and retail.
“He asked me to come along and give him a bit of a hand with the retail side of it and I did, while still working for the bank.
“My brother was doing well, he ended having 10 shops under his banner.
“But eventually he changed industries, while I stayed with bedding.’’
By this time Warren Morrison was quite well known in the industry, and no doubt with this in mind Sleeping Giant head office came calling.
“They offered me a store and I said, I will only do it if I can have one of your stores as a franchise,’’ he says.
“And they said, which one do you want, and I said, I’ll take Campbelltown, because we owned this store for 10 years beforehand through my brother’s business.
“I knew it was a good shop and knew I could turn it around and actually we tripled it straight away and it became successful.’’
He says that at the time, having a deep knowledge of the manufacturing industry was great help, because not everyone in retail did.
“Also, it helped that Sleeping Giant was one of the first importers from Malaysia and some designs from America.
“It meant I hit the market with a very good gross profit margin, so we were on our way.’’
Warren Morrison bought his first house at 21 when already married and still worked for the bank at the Castle Hill branch – “that’s why we bought a house in Plumpton,’’ he explains.
But he was also working and learning in the bedding industry with his brother and plotting the move to his next house – in Campbelltown or somewhere in Macarthur.
“The business started making good money and we employed a fellow called Geoff Robinson; he was with Captain Snooze I think in those days,’’ he says.
Eventually he knew the time had come to leave banking behind and concentrate on bedding.
“I never wanted to work for anyone else, I wanted to create something of my own,’’ he says now.
“I’ve always been a person who wants more, I am not greedy or ruthless, but I want to progress in life.
“So I do things like a five year plan, and it’s why we had kids 10 years apart [two daughters aged 35, 25 and a son aged 16].’’
He says when the family were ready for the move south west, they found out they couldn’t afford to buy a house in Kearns, where they were looking for a new family home.
So they went a little further out and bought in Mt Annan, even though there wasn’t much there at the time.
“We noticed across at Currans Hill there wasn’t one house built; it was a paddock, but there were tractors there moving all the dirt around,’’ he says.
“Narellan Road was a single lane each way, it was a long time ago, there was a drive-in cinema at Narellan, but there wasn’t anything else there at the time.
“When we came back six months later to look at the land we purchased we noticed that construction had started on, oh, more than 100 houses.’’
“So I remember thinking, there’s going to be a lot of growth out here, four bedrooms in every house, there’s going to be a million out here, I did the numbers – that’s four million beds we can sell!’’
Now there’s another growth tsunami on the way in Macarthur and Warren Morrison and Sleeping Giant are excited by the challenge.
“We will be renovating the whole store, gutting it, make it a bigger and better Sleeping Giant, bringing in James Lane dining and lounge furniture, we will have the whole house basically, bedroom, dining and lounge, we’re in a growth area after all,’’ Morrison says.
They will be moving temporarily into the old Brescia building a couple of doors up Blaxland Road while renovations are carried out for about four months starting from the end of February.
“We have loyal customers who have been coming here for 20 years and I want to do the right thing by them,’’ says Morrison.
“It’s why we’re doing the James Lane thing, to have lounge and dining alongside the beds.
“There’s a lot of big companies that do the whole thing now, so the specialist shops are affected, especially when it comes to imports.
“If you don’t do it, the person will go somewhere else to buy it, provided the price is right.’’
So what’s the secret of his success over the past 20 years on the same site in Blaxland Road opposite Paul Wakeling Motors?
“Best thing about us is the service we offer, we straight away take into account a person’s needs, find out what they want, what’s right for them personally,’’ he offers.
“Also little things like we acknowledge people when they walk into the store by saying g’day, how are you, but leave them be.
“We are saying thanks for coming into our shop, we don’t want to jump on you, but we’re here to help you when you’re ready.
“Most of the staff have been here a long time, and they love being with Sleeping Giant, and they know the customers,’’ Morrison says.
“And a lot of people know Wazza because I’ve been here a long time
“When someone comes in and says, oh yeah, I know Wazza from the football or somewhere in the community, I’ve always told the staff, look after them, give them mate’s rates, a discount.’’
Warren Morrison got elected to Campbelltown Council last year and is also the chairman of one of our great charities, 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur.
But he became really well known around here when he started operating Sleeping Giant 20 years ago and fairly quickly decided to spend some of his advertising dollars on local sport clubs instead of giving it to big media companies.
“Because our franchise was so successful, my four percent contribution to the company advertising budget was as much as five other shops combined,’’ he explains.
“So I started thinking, it’s stupid me giving you money to support the whole group, and it was 12 stores then, and I am one, so I said I will give you the amount every other store puts in to go to head office advertising, but the rest I will use in local advertising.’’
“Eagle Vale football club, they put the Sleeping Giant logo on every pair of shorts, you have 276 pairs of shorts with a little logo on it, for $1,000, maybe $2,000.
“But to me, to give the kids something was a better thing than advertising in the big city media.
“It’s a major reason why I became well known, so I did cricket, football, baseball, a thousand different things and over the years I’ve put easily half a million dollars into the community.’’
When Warren Morrison was growing up he worked at the local chemist where he earned $2 a day.
But he always wanted to be his own man when he grew up.
Thanks to a school excursion to Macarthur Square all those years ago, he has made his mark right here in Campbelltown and Macarthur.