Foodland South Australia held its annual business conference, gala dinner and supplier awards presentation at the Hilton Adelaide Hotel on November 14.
By David Burton.
The business session of this year’s Foodland in Focus conference took the theme ‘Perspective, Passion, Progress’. It was a recurring message throughout the presentations and a particularly relevant one for the Foodland retailers as new competitors enter the South Australian market, with Costco having opened in November and ALDI set to arrive in 2016.
A key part of the session was a panel discussion on being ready for the new competition. In the hot seat were Romeo Retail Group Director Joseph Romeo, Drakes Supermarkets General Manager Bob Soang, Foodland Ardrossan owner John Sandercock and Foodland Category Promotions Manager Stuart Harrod.
Over a 20-minute session the panel addressed a series of questions focused on how to cope in the face of new competition from ALDI and, to a lesser extent, Costco.
“What makes South Australia so different to the eastern seaboard is that we’ve got some of the best retailers in the country, and some of our offers are a lot bigger.”
Foodland retailers ready for a fight
The overwhelming view was that Foodland independents had nothing to fear from ALDI when it arrives, with the consensus that Foodland retailers trade on reputation, service, local community and, in particular, having a wide range of items available.
Asked by session moderator John Lees what Foodland needed to change in the face of new competition from ALDI, Mr Romeo said he believed the Foodland board, and certainly the Foodland retailers, had been preparing for this moment for a number of years, and it was about five years ago when he had first pondered the effect of ALDI coming to SA.
He said a number of SA retailers, including his own Romeo Retail Group, Drakes Supermarkets, Chapleys and others, were reinvesting in their businesses and preparing for the moment, and he felt that “the only missing piece is that we’ve never had a competitive home-brand program”.
”And that’s been corrected with new pricing, and I think we’re ready for it [ALDI], and the beast in South Australia is slightly different,” he said. “ALDI, without a doubt, are one of the most successful retailers in the world. But here in South Australia, what makes South Australia so different to the eastern seaboard is that we’ve got some of the best retailers in the country, and some of our offers are a lot bigger, and they’re in the metro area, where, if you consider Victoria and NSW, Sydney and Melbourne – even Queensland – a lot of the major [independent] offers are outside of the metropolitan areas.
“Where we’ve got a strong presence it will make their job (ALDI) harder without a doubt. Our fresh offer in our stores is outstanding and quite consistent. So I believe Foodland is here to stay and will continue to grow.”
Echoing Mr Romeo’s sentiments, Mr Soang pointed to the commitment at Drakes Supermarkets of working at the local community level.
“I know in our company we’re working harder and harder to try and make sure we’re locking in the local footy club, the local soccer club, the local bridge club,” he said.
“We’re also working very hard on the fresh offer as well, because we do think that’s a real point of difference. ALDI can be cheaper, but they don’t actually do that good a job.”
Responding to a question on potential changes to trading hours, Mr Soang said he expected the hours would change, because the Coalition Government had flagged its position pretty clearly that it was going to go down that path.
“How quickly it comes is another thing,” he said. “I think we’re lucky in South Australia that our trading hours are probably just spot on; I know when we talk to our counterparts on the eastern seaboard, they’re very envious of the fact that we don’t open on public holidays and that we have really the right number of hours for what we need.
“The reality is it’s probably going to come; Coles and Woolworths will open [extended hours] and we will be forced to open alongside them.”
The gala dinner included the annual supplier awards presentations as well as a farewell cameo from outgoing Foodland CEO Russell Markham.
This year’s award winners were:
- Supplier of the Year 2014: Mars Petcare.
- Supplier of the Year under $2m: Gruma-Mission Foods.
- Merchandiser of the Year: Coca-Cola Amatil.
- Sales Executive of the Year: Bill Dawson (KRC).
- Food: Goodman Fielder.
- Non food: Mars Petcare.
- Fresh: Lion Dairy and Drinks.
- Dairy: Hans Primo Smallgoods.
- Bakery: Vili’s.
- General Merchandise: Décor.
- Frozen: Peters Ice Cream.
- Confectionery/Snack/Biscuits: Wrigley.
Eight years of sales growth for retiring CEO
The gala dinner is so often a great occasion for Foodland retailers and suppliers to meet in its relaxed atmosphere, but this year’s event was a slightly poignant affair as it was the last awards night after eight years of being Foodland CEO for Russell Markham.
His successor at the helm of Foodland SA is CEO Con Sciacca. Mr Sciacca has an extensive senior management background with Metcash, most recently as CEO at Franklins overseeing the transfer of distribution to Metcash and the sales of stores to independent owners.
The last words go to Mr Markham, who always had time to talk to Retail World. Having watched highlights of trade shows and IGA global conferences in which he had led Foodland delegations over his eight years as CEO, a slightly emotional Mr Markham said this had brought home to him that he had been privileged to be a part of a great Foodland team that kept the independent share strong in South Australia.