Matthew Hart’s career has been far from typical. A former Black Cap, he spent eighteen months working at Tauranga’s PAK’nSAVE as a shelf-stacker, learning the basics of the supermarket industry. It was a remarkable act of humility by the left-arm orthodox spinner, whose sporting career saw him travelling around the world to represent his country. But it was all part of his plan. Towards the end of his cricket career, Hart completed a Bachelor of Management from Waikato University, with the goal of one day owning and operating his own supermarket.

Matthew and his wife Sheree, herself a two-time badminton Commonwealth Games representative and chartered accountant, acquired their first supermarket, Four Square at Ohope Beach, in 2009. Two years later, the couple took over New World Papakura in South Auckland, before moving back to the Waikato to run New World Matamata in 2013.

“The customer experience in our store is about a family-friendly experience,” said Matthew. “Being a community store in an established farming and horse racing area, a number of our customers know a number of our team, so the environment is very open and friendly.” The 3221 square metre store, of which 1712 square metres is selling area, features eight regular and three express checkouts. The store’s 165 staff make it a major employer in a town of just under 8000. Despite its rural location, Matthew said that organic and free-from products was increasingly popular amongst his customers.

“We have a goal to offer the largest supermarket range of organic and free-from products. In our recent refurbishment, we highlighted this department by moving it to the centre of our store, introducing an organic produce chiller, organic meat chiller, gluten-free freezer, and organic bulk bins, along with all new shelving and fixtures.”

It’s this kind of commitment to the customer experience that won Matthew and Sheree nominations for the Investment in People Award and the People’s Choice Award at the recent Retail NZ Awards. “We’ve had a number of successes, won a number of awards, and this is all down to the value we place on our team – we cannot achieve without committed people.”

In recognition of this, one year ago Matthew and Sheree started You Mata, a wellbeing program for their work community. What began as a seminar attended by 200 staff and partners on stress management, goal setting, and financial literacy morphed into a programme encompassing emotional, physical, environmental, and financial wellbeing.

“We communicate this programme through a closed Facebook group, internal communications boards, special interest groups, and You Mata champions,” Matthew explained. “Our aim is to help folk at the ‘top of the cliff’ by giving them tools to help themselves and their families.”

As a family-run business, Matthew and Sheree expressed great pride in their children’s involvement in New World Matamata. “Our greatest achievement has been to raise our children in an environment where they get to see us being inclusive and respectful of people no matter what role they have in our business,” said Matthew.

The Harts donate $50,000 a year to local charities, schools, and sports clubs in the Matamata community, as well as safe-to-eat food with damaged packaging to the local food bank and police station each week. “Our local police use this food in situations where they enter a home and see the pantry bare – it helps to facilitate a positive relationship.”

New World Matamata recently completed a nine-month refurbishment, which saw every department getting an overhaul. “We moved our bakery off-site, and moved our deli into a container in the carpark, all with minimal disruption to our community and no staff resignations!” Looking ahead, the couple are keen to keep their store innovative yet grounded in its community routes.

“We would like to introduce more IT into our store to enhance our customer experience,” said Matthew. “Our store is our community’s store and so it’s important to us to ensure we not only meet our community needs but also our community enjoys the social environment and experience within our store.”