Located in the heart of Auckland’s North Shore neighbourhood, Countdown Takapuna has a team of around 90 staff. In December 2018 the store completed a complete renewal, and now features ten checkouts and nine self-checkouts.

Kyle Webber joined the Takapuna team two months ago as store manager, but he has been with Countdown for 16 years. He started out his career in the grocery and check-out departments as a part-timer, progressing to a number of different roles before taking on his first position as store manager in Greymouth. “I chose this career path as I really enjoy the people you get to work with, the fast-paced nature of the business, and helping customers every day,” Webber told SupermarketNews.

Since Greymouth, Webber has managed Countdown stores in Invercargill and Christchurch before moving back to Auckland to run Countdown Takapuna, where he and his team hope to build an exciting, unique shopping experience for their customers. A recent initiative encouraging daily acts of kindness is designed to help connect with and support the local community, and the store recently completed a renewal and relaunch.

“We try and do different things in store to help create great shopping experiences,” said Webber. “For example, recently our group manager has brought in ‘Tasty Tuesday’, in which all the stores in our group sample different things for our customers and teams.” The store is fitted out with miniature shopping trolleys for kids, as well as an on-site mobility scooter for customers to use, and the team at Takapuna are continuously focused on trying to personalise the customer experience.

“We had a customer asking about catering services that other supermarkets offer, but which we don’t have. Instead, my fresh food manager worked with the customer and offered to heat up the items she needed and make the platters we have on offer.”

Being in New Zealand’s largest city, the Takapuna team are well positioned to spot and capitalise on emerging trends. Health foods such as keto bread and plant-based meat substitutes are on the rise, according to Webber, an observation matched across the industry.

From non-dairy milk to clean meat and CBD oil-infused produce, the rise in alternative food offerings offers real opportunity for supermarkets to tap into a committed shopper base. In line with this, Countdown Takapuna offers soft plastic recycling for customers.

Despite new trends, though, old favourites available  the deli counter are still going strong. Deli counters in grocery have been on trend for the better part of the last decade and although traditional cold cut and cheese remain strong favourites, delis now incorporate everything from picnic staples like potato and coleslaw salads to more elevated dishes like samosas and ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat foods. By focusing on the fresh food space, Countdown Takapuna keeps up to date with what consumers want and need.

“The ability to cook products for customers in our speed oven and new rotisserie oven is definitely one of our store highlights.” Grocers are willing to play the role of sous chef as today’s customers try to eat healthier despite having less time. Rotisserie meats are an easy, tasty and affordable offering for customers who need convenience, and alongside a side dish, it is the perfect grab-and-go option on the way home from work.

By listening and responding to his customers, Webber is able to stay on top of trends in a lively, fast-changing neighbourhood. But it’s his staff, he was keen to point out, who really keep the ball rolling. “The thing I’m definitely most proud of is my team, and how they present the store every day for our customers and offer great customer service every day.”