James Varcoe had a slightly inauspicious start in the FMCG business – despite not getting an interview at PAK’nSAVE Glen Innes, New World Eastridge saw his potential and at age 15, Varcoe got his start in the butchery.
“I was fascinated by the production and retail process,” Varcoe told SupermarketNews. “I loved how you could turn a 120kg side of beef into mince, sausages, and steaks, and how margin was made by managing the process from carcass to trolley.”
By the time he reached university, he had decided that after having worked in the produce, liquor, grocery and seafood departments, all he really wanted to do was to own a supermarket. A law clerkship and subsequent job offer mean those plans were put on hold, and after devoting his life to New World for seven years, he left to work at a leading commercial law firm.
However, the pull of the supermarket was too strong to resist. “I really enjoyed and liked being a lawyer, but I didn’t love it. Then I was given an opportunity with Foodstuffs, which I knew I loved.” Varcoe ended up back at Eastridge New World as produce manager before heading down the road to PAK’nSAVE Glen Innes (yes, he got the job this time) as the deli manager. After a year in the deli and two as chilled and frozen manager, he was accepted into the Foodstuffs Trainee Operator Programme. He’s now the store manager at New World Mt Roskill to finish off his trainee operator training.
There’s a lot to like about supermarkets for Varcoe. “Supermarkets put the ‘fast’ in FMCG,” he said. “The pace of work and change is incredible.” Also appealing is the physicality of moving, unloading and packing stock, and also the constant personal interaction, with staff, suppliers and customers. “I like how supermarkets are truly a part of people’s community and lives,” he said. “Everyone I’ve met has an opinion on what you do and a passionate favourite supermarket often referred to as ‘my supermarket’.”
Varcoe describes himself as pragmatic, organised and efficient. “I implement systems and structure to get results and so things can run when I am not there.” No wonder, then, that his favourite place in the world is Germany – “I love the history, and how everything is so efficient and well-ordered!”
At the moment Varcoe’s only goal is to purchase his own New World, but further down the track would like to give back to the Foodstuffs group through committees and helping develop the next generation of grocers. “I am continually inspired by the people who work in supermarkets,” he explained. “They’re often working late at night, early in the morning, over Saturday and Sunday, doing hard and physical work. Everyone is so friendly and generous, and really passionate.”