I reckon I have a pretty fresh perspective on why the Foodstuffs co-operative model continues to deliver for customers the length and breadth of New Zealand. In the role of GM Retail for Foodstuffs North Island since 2014, and hailing from the UK, I’m constantly astounded by how the close relationship between hundreds of owner-operators and their customers is delivering stellar results.

Our owners walk the floor and talk to customers about what they want from their local store, and then they turn around and deliver it. They are rewarded with an exceptional level of loyalty.

Our owner-operator structure is fundamental to the ongoing relationship that we have with our customers. Stable local ownership and management adds significant value across all aspects of the business whether it relates to a customer, team member, supplier or even the local sports, social club or food bank. Local relationships and long-term commitments benefit thousands of community groups each year.

There’s something else that’s very interesting about the co-operative model. While each banner and channel has a vein of likeness running through them to maintain a brand position and consistent product and service delivery, every store can easily adapt to reflect local needs. Servicing the community well and authentically is equally important as brand compliance. It’s a hard thing to get your head around at first, especially coming from a more corporate background – but once you understand the balance needed, it makes so much sense and gives our stores an edge in meeting customer expectations.

Retail is under increasing pressure from more informed and engaged consumers. They can search out everything they need to know about a brand or product; they comment on and share their views in a heartbeat on how a brand executes their promise and they want more convenience and value.

Delivering on our customers’ expectations will ensure that we continue to win in a very competitive space. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen first-hand how the co-operative is such an important part of the Kiwi business landscape. I’ve seen every day how the model plays to the New Zealand sense of entrepreneurship and ingenuity. A co-op is very much a long-term game, ensuring we deliver for customers now and have a strong, competitive business for the future.

One thing which has been a welcome surprise to me is how the business is eager to invest in growth. I had the misconception that capital investment would be a challenge in the co-op. The reality is that we have a group of highly engaged owners who are actively investing in their businesses to ensuring that they are fit for the future and can make strong contributions to their communities.

New Zealand is a great place to be retailing, it has a solid yet vibrant economy benefitting from a growing diverse population. I’m excited to be part of a team which is embracing shoppers’ increasingly high expectations and changing needs.

--- by Doug Cochrane, GM Retail, Foodstuffs North Island