Meet our Independent Retailers of the Quarter
John Hockings and Terry Partridge from Supa IGA Regents Park.
Time in Current Supermarket
John and Terry took over the store in September 2006.
What makes John & Terry great?
John and Terry are two of the few single store owners in the game. They are proud of their close relationship with the community and they regularly take part in local community and fundraising events.
John & Terry adopt a very hands-on approach in their store. Their customers know them by name which means a lot, both to John and Terry, and their customers. As one customer said “Geez – I’ve never talked with a supermarket owner before in their store”.
What specific results have they obtained?
- Sales increased by 78%
- Gross Profit in dollar terms increased from 15% to 21.5%
- Customer count increased by approx 45%
- Basket size increased by approx 12%
What changes did they make in the store to achieve these results?
When they first took over the store they made some basic cosmetic changes – a coat of paint, improved lighting throughout the store and the floors cleaned and polished.
In late 2007 they started a nine month, major renovation that saw them totally rebuild the store while continuing to trade. The back of house software and front end software was replaced, all registers replaced, new shelving and flooring was installed throughout, together with all new freezers and chillers. A full butchershop and deli were added and the fresh produce area was expanded. The fresh produce sales grew by 400% from September 2006.
Why did John & Terry choose to buy a supermarket?
Both John & Terry have retail in their blood. John’s retail background started when he worked in his family owned hotel in the Gulf of Carpentaria . Working in the hotel industry and other grocery operations gave him an insight into customer service and conflict resolution skills. When he relocated to Brisbane in 1994, he built his first convenience supermarket at Spring Hill. This store traded 24 hours, 7 days a week and paved the way for the development of convenience supermarkets and their Fresh Food offer. He built and opened his second 24 hour, 7 day IGA Xpress supermarket in 1997 in the busy Fortitude Valley precinct.
Terry had his first corner store back in 1980 for 3 years, before selling the store and moving into communications. The retail bug had bitten though and in 1992 he bought an Express store, turning it into the top trading Express store in Queensland before selling it.
How do they describe themselves?
John sees himself as a store owner who is “hands on” and is involved with the entire business daily, from back office through to the check-outs and customer service. Due to extensive experience in food handling and fresh food concepts, he works closely with all Fresh Department Managers to enhance their offer and increase sales.
Terry is a personable, easy going bloke who is constantly looking to improve the bottom line and confidently makes decisions to do this , He is the business brains of the partnership, keeping tabs on the figures and trading results.
What process did they use to buy their supermarket?
The Regents Park store was one of two stores the partners had looked at. They wanted to move into a Supa IGA as they believed the future of retailing was moving back into the community. They were both ready for the challenge a full line store would give them.
Terry had been aware of the Regents Park store for a number of years. He passed it regularly on the way to visit relatives so knew the neighbourhood and recognised the potential.
When the store came onto the market John and Terry went through the detailed process of being approved by Metcash to take over the running of the store, including interviews with landlords and detailing their future renovation process. Since they were approved to purchase, they haven’t looked back!
Who and where are their nearest competitors?
Competition is healthy. The Supa IGA at Regents Park has Aldi, two Woolworths stores, a Coles, Big W and K-mart all within 500 metres of the store.
The Super IGA’s point of difference is that it easily caters to the needs of all shoppers, whilst specifically focusing on the shopping needs of the elderly. Lighter, easier to maneuver trolleys, helpful, friendly staff and easy access to undercover parking are important considerations for the business. The closest undercover parking is just 25m from the front door, making it easy for older customers to shop and load their groceries.
What have their biggest challenges been and how did they overcome them?
When taking over the Supa IGA, John & Terry faced two major challenges:
(1) Culture change for the employees adjusting from a corporate store to an independent store
Corporate stores run on a cycle of catalogue to catalogue. Independent stores run on selling program cycles which can be hard to adjust to for corporate employees. John and Terry overcame this challenge through education and communication with their employees. Helping them learn and understand the rationale for the different strategies made the transition far smoother.
(2) Renovation challenges
Continuing to trade while major renovations were being undertaken was a massive challenge. Staff needed to increase their customer focus and awareness to assist consumers locate items during the changes, while simple logistical processes were needed to ensure minimal stock was held in storage tying up capital rather than on the sales floor.
Due to John’s previous experience building stores from the ground up and project managing the fitout of other IGA Supermarkets for Metcash, he was able to use this experience to project manage the stores’ major refurbishment.
What scanning reports do they use most in their business?
Terry is passionate about numbers. He tracks customer count and basket size daily. If basket size numbers are dropping he quickly takes action to stop the leakage. If the basket size numbers increase by a significant number, then he ensures they increase their stocking to meet demand.
Both partners are passionate about the success of the Fresh Departments in the store , in particular the range and offer they have available for their valued customers. It is vital that fresh areas perform on a consistently strong basis as they create the perception for the remainder of the store.
What does the future hold?
Terry & John plan to expand into an additional 2-3 stores in coming years.