New World Howick completed its finishing touches and officially opened in December 2014. The eagerly anticipated supermarket was extremely well received by the Howick community. Since then, the store has gone from strength to strength, showing innovation and growth from on the shelf, within the team, and in customer experience.
The grocery trade is nothing new for owner-operator Brendon Jones, a third-generation grocer who started off pushing trolleys and filling shelves from a young age.
His grandmother owned a local dairy in Whanganui, followed by his father who owned Write Price FoodBarn in Whanganui which then became a Pak’nSave. Some customers have even shopped with the Joneses since the ‘Self Help’ days. Self Help was the name of a chain of cut-price grocery stores that arose in Wellington in the 1920s which operated on a strict cash-and-carry basis while most grocers offered credit and delivery. By 1947, there were around 200 Self Help shops throughout the country. Self Help competed on price by bulk purchasing, and by cutting services such as wrapping goods – something that has come full circle in today’s world with New World Howick now offering customers the choice to bring in their own containers for butchery and seafood serve overs. Brendon Jones’ first store, however, Gonville New World which opened in the late 1970s, was replaced by a Super Value store in 2011 following an unexpected short-term lease abrupt expiry, which came as both a surprise and disappointment. He then was the owner-operator for New World Whanganui before moving to Auckland to open New World Howick in late 2014.
Shortly after opening its doors, New World Howick was named the number one supermarket across the country for three months in a row and revealed an impressive customer satisfaction score of 98.6 percent from over 3,200 individual pieces of feedback through Customer Radar. “We recruit people who have a passion for what they do and then focus on training them well,” said Jones about his team of just over 170 staff. Also during its first year, the store introduced a plastic bag recycling unit, new food line in the butchery and dedicated organic fruit and vegetable sections.
“We’ve put our customer at the heart of everything we do. From the employment interview, through induction and training, every meeting and every review – it’s all about the customer.” And nothing could be more true today. Jones and his team are always reviewing and looking at ways to expand growth category shelf space and increase customer engagement.
“One area that we are seeing huge growth in is coffee, in particular, coffee pods, so a recent relay in that aisle was very timely.” Convenience and food-to-go is another growth opportunity for supermarkets, and Jones has put a lot of thought into the store layout so that customers who are only making a quick, short trip can grab items quickly without having to go right around the store.
The store also works together with the community in a series of partnerships. It recently teamed up for an ANZAC biscuit promotion where 50 cents of every packet sold was donated to the local Howick RSA raising over $1500. New World Howick also partnered with the Pink Ribbon Foundation and donated 20 cents from every packet of S’mores Cookies sold to the charity.
Eat My Lunch is another example of the store’s commitment to its community. With every Eat My Lunch or Dinner purchase, a child will, in turn, be gifted a free school lunch. “Our partnership with Eat My Lunch just makes sense for us. To date, we have provided over 500 free lunches to children in need and by offering Eat My Lunch meals in our store we can extend the reach of this innovative social enterprise even further. Our customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Jones’ vision for the store is simple – to create a world-class customer service experience. He and the team continue to look at that on a greater level, with customer expectations always rising, and are always asking themselves ‘what’s next?’. “Our goal has always been to be iconic amongst our customers and the industry. For us, this means that we’re innovative and evolving our customers’ need and developing the best operational practices.”
One of the ways that Jones keeps up with his customers and creates a personalised in-store experience, is by his weekly walk with the customer where a customer is selected from the store’s Facebook page and either Brendon or his customer service manager, walks around the store with the customer to talk about the store, their experience, and receive valuable feedback. “We want to know all the ways in which we can offer a better in-store experience, whether that be to do with the store layout, customer service, or in our product offering and sometimes it’s just the little things that count. Shoppers are so engaged with their supermarket and often are regular visitors, so you want to know what they think. Sometimes it’s products, and sometimes it’s things that may be out of the realm of possibilities, but it is more about the connection we want to have with our customers and hearing what their thoughts are in the moment. There is always a solution to something. I did receive feedback from a customer after we put in a speed bump at the front of the store to slow cars down. The customer told me how hard it was to push the trolley up and over it to get to their car, so we cut a section of it out that was large enough to fit the trolley through without having to push it over the speed bump.”
When it comes to what his customers think of the store Jones would love them to feel as though it has been created with them in mind, that they are looked after and made welcome. “For us, this is our primary focus and we try to ensure that our team is proactive and creating a friendly environment for customers.” A memorable moment for Jones was when a customer came up to him and said, “whenever I am feeling a bit down, I make an effort to come to New World Howick as your staff are so friendly and welcoming and is a great pick me up”. Jones believes that one of the biggest opportunities in grocery today is in the customer service field. “We do focus a lot on the customer experience and shopper engagement and looking to evolve ideas we see and how we can implement these to create a fabulous experience for shoppers and one of the key areas of interest at the moment is with online and the opportunities it brings.”
As far as store highlights go, for Jones, it is the Deli department. “I think in regards to our range and merchandise, there is lots of excitement and always something happening in that department.” Since opening the store, however, Jones makes note of how well received the store was, despite it being a highly competitive area. “To grow and expand the store’s offering and customer experience, as well as continuing to be very well received within the community is definitely rewarding. I would have to say that continuing to offer leading customer service both in real time and customer radar and quarterly surveys is what makes me feel most proud of this store and our team. Overall, building this store to the level it is at today, is something that all of our hardworking team should be proud of.”
Challenges can be seen industry-wide in many areas a hot topic with customers, but for New World Howick, it’s all about how they can grow as a team. “I believe that a key area for us is training the team to a high level, and while there is no shortage of good staff, bringing them all up to the same expectation and standard as well as delivering a consistent message to our customers is always the work.” With the industry moving at an increasingly fast pace, technology has a big role to play in changing the way retailers operate. “Connecting with customers in ever-changing ways and to ensure that customer expectations are met, making the trip more meaningful is one of our key priorities.”
A focus this year for Jones is to be a preferred employer. “This year, alongside developing our customer service side, is to create a fantastic culture and build the team, creating clear career paths and support for them to achieve their goals, to get there as well as being a great place to work. While it normally is all about the customer, this year I would like to share that with a priority on our team, because great customer service and innovation come great people.”
Being an owner-operator is a huge responsibility and Jones believes this is one of the key points of difference. “I am in the store every day thinking about how to improve it. I am fortunate enough to be able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and tweak operational or other practices instead of it being just business as usual.”
- Footprint 3484 sqm store
- Selling Area 2700sqm store
- 161 carparks
- Eight full checkouts, eight self-checkouts
- 170 staff
- 20,000 SKUs
- Opening Date: December 2 2014
- Owner-Operator: Brendon Jones