Jason McQuoid is the store manager of Countdown Queenstown and has been a part of the Woolworths company since the beginning of his career. He first started with Woolworths as a teenager, working an after school job for some extra pocket money. It did not take long for him to realise that the retail environment was one he really connected with.

“I very quickly fell in love with the retail environment particularly the fast pace nature of FMCG,” shared McQuoid. He invested his time in the internal development and leadership programs available at Woolworths and began his extensive retail career with the company.

McQuoid has been the store manager of Countdown Queenstown for a year and a half and expressed his pride in the unique services the store has on offer. The store has embraced the community around them in a selection of ways. “We are fortunate to have a region full of many growers and producers and have plenty on offer in store including a large range of Central Otago wines as well as breweries such as Queenstown breweries. Zamora sausages in our meat department are delicious as are our Central Otago summer fruit which is grown in our backyard.” Support for the community is given by both this embracing of locally grown produce as well as the way the store gives back. “We support many local schools, charity groups and individuals,” said McQuoid. “We also have a very close relationship with Let’s Eat which we look forward to continuing.”

This partnership began last year, providing good ingredients for healthy community cooking. “Some of our team joined Let’s Eat at Christmas to help put together hundreds of hampers and then used one of our online delivery trucks to help them. The team were touched by the stories and gratefulness of the people receiving these hampers. It’s a great feeling knowing that we can make a real difference to so many individuals’ lives.”

The store also demonstrates their commitment to their community by adapting the store to fit the needs of their customers. “Our in-store layout is very customer friendly, and I think a real point of difference in the region. We have wide aisles with plenty of open space to navigate and a bright and inviting atmosphere which we are always improving on.” As the interests of their consumers change, so to does the way McQuoid’s store operates. One of the biggest changes he has seen is the consumer’s shift towards healthy and fresh foods.

“Health food is certainly a high growth category with more and more customers choosing to switch out sugar, salt or gluten from their diets as well as swap out meat for plant-based proteins.” To adhere to this call, the store has developed its health food offering with new plant-based meat alternatives in store and a fast-growing product range in the health food category.

This health trend has gone hand-in-hand with consumer’s call for more sustainable packaging, and McQuoid’s team has met the challenge with enthusiasm. “We recycle about 70 percent of our waste in store, even with a challenging recycling network in Queenstown,” he added. “Additionally, the majority of our food waste is repurposed to farmers or local charities, and we work closely with Kiwi Harvest to redistribute our food waste.” He expressed his commitment to continuing to develop these sustainable practices.

The store is preparing to undergo a minor refurbishment which will include a large reduction of plastic wrapped products as well as innovative produce offerings with fogging technology. “I am very excited for these changes as I believe that as market leaders in this we must continue to evolve and find new and innovative ways to allow customers to do the right thing.”

During his time in the industry, one of the most significant shifts McQuoid has witnessed is the rise in the importance of technology. This influence of technology varies from the convenience of self-serve checkouts to loyalty schemes and online shopping. “We are using technology that is rapidly developing to continue to personalise the customers’ shopping experience while opening up more new and convenient ways to shop.” This Queenstown store has embraced the technology surge by implementing nine self-checkouts to match its nine operator checkouts.

However, they are looking to expand their online influence even further. “Online shopping is a fast-growing part of the FMCG business, and certainly here in Queenstown. It is in high demand, and future growth is about being more and more convenient and giving customers a range of ways to shop when they want and in a way that suits their family.” McQuoid intends these changes to be substantial, but also discussed the importance of balance for the store. “One of the biggest challenges in the grocery industry today is adapting to the fast growth and demand in online shopping while still catering to the bricks and mortar customer that is after a great in-store experience.”

When McQuoid was asked about where he sees the most value in his store, his answer was very assured. “My team,” he said. “As most operators in the region will know we operate in a very challenging environment from having extremely low unemployment to a very changeable sales environment throughout the year as a global holiday destination. My team bring our great offering to life every day for our customers and tourists in the region, catering to the rapidly changing shopping patterns throughout the year.”