Duncan MacNaughton

Chairman, the Macnaughton Group

October, 2003

If changing the way people live were the sole indicator of personal power, then Duncan MacNaughton would be the king of Hawaii. OK, maybe we’re exaggerating a little. We know this for sure: He is the Islands’ current ruler of retail.

MacNaughton, chairman of the MacNaughton Group, was responsible for bringing many of the biggest retailers in the country to Hawaii, literally and figuratively altering the Islands’ landscape. The list is as long as it is varied: Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Blockbuster Video, Borders Books & Music, Sports Authority, Pier 1 Imports, Costco, Kmart. Basically, if you’ve done any shopping in Hawaii in the last 15 years, you can thank MacNaughton for increasing the selection and lowering the cost of most consumer goods.

“Duncan MacNaughton is the most influential man in Hawaii retail since Don Graham built Ala Moana Shopping Center in 1959,” says retail analyst Stephanie Sofos. “I would say that 100 percent of the population has been affected one way or another by Duncan’s work. He lowered the cost of paradise.”

Fittingly, this statewide price reduction began with Costco. In 1986, MacNaughton assisted in bailing out the original developer from a costly lawsuit, then oversaw the construction of the Bougainville warehouse store.

“We met with Costco’s CEO and took a tour of three or four of the stores in the Seattle area. We were fascinated,” says MacNaughton. “We knew right then Costco was going to be a huge success.”

Hawaii retail would never be the same. The overwhelming response to the opening sent Costco executives scrambling to look for additional locations, but it also was a wake-up call to other big-box stores about the considerable buying power of Hawaii’s residents and visitors.

While searching for a property for Costco’s second location, MacNaughton came upon a strip of land in Waipahu, fronting the H-1 Freeway. With Costco’s sales setting records, he was able to persuade other big-box retailers to anchor the Waikele Shopping Center.

After his Waikele success, MacNaughton got into retail himself, first investing in Blockbuster Video and then convincing Starbucks and Jamba Juice to sell him franchising rights.

“Not only has he changed the way people shop in Hawaii,” says Sofos, “he’s also changed the way we congregate. Starbucks doesn’t just sell you a cup of coffee. It also sells you an experience. It’s the common man’s country club.”

MacNaughton hasn’t stopped changing the Island lifestyle. Last year, he joined a consortium of investors in the development of Hokua, a luxury high-rise residence that is specifically targeted at retiring baby boomers. Once again, MacNaughton is on target. At press time, less than a dozen of the 247 units were available. More than 80 percent of the buyers were local.

How is MacNaughton going to change our lives next?

“I’m not sure what’s next,” says MacNaughton. “I like doing business in Hawaii. It’s my home, and I understand things here. We’ll see what happens.”

We’ll be watching.

-David K. Choo

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David K. Choo