Celebrating Local Points of Difference

Feb 7, 2019

From specialty pork offerings and deli dips to fresh, local produce and seafood, Ritchies IGA Dromana is famous for their points of difference. Spend a minute getting to know Fred Harrison, 2019 IGA Australia International Retailer of the Year.

Retailing history: When/how did you get started? How long have you been IGA?

In my 44-year retail career, I have had only one job and that is with Ritchies IGA. If you count my first three years as a produce supplier to Ritchies, it’s actually 47 years. At the time, I lived at home with Mum and Dad and grew produce in our backyard. Every second or third Friday, my Dad would drive me down to Ritchies and I would on-sell our fresh produce to the Ritchies head greengrocer. I would earn around $20 per visit and would stay on in Frankston to spend my income on tennis gear as that was my passion. Whilst attending Frankston High School, I was given the opportunity to start as a casual after school. I became a shareholder over the journey and have now clocked up 44 years with the company.

There are still lots of things to do and plenty of energy required to compete effectively these days, but I am proud of the journey and I look forward to working for Ritchies for a number of years yet.

Differentiation: What makes your store unique/special? Or, what are you known for?

Whilst we do call it differentiation, I prefer the term “points of difference.” Ritchies stores are famous for our points of difference. We are never going to out muscle the public company chains on commodity items such as bread, milk, coffee, and toilet rolls. Whilst remaining very competitive on these items, in order to succeed we must offer products, categories, and ranges that the chains don’t play well in.

The past four or five years have seen Ritchies work very hard on our points of difference. For example, rather than only offer a basic hot chicken from our hotbox, we have worked hard to grow our crackling pork business. Our Dromana store is the best in the business, often selling between 600 and 700 1 kg pieces of pork in a week. At $22/kg, that’s a great sale, and we invariably sell the vegetables that complement the pork, such as scallop potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and carrots. We have worked hard to provide this meal solution and have achieved great success.

Dromana offers another great point of difference with the largest dip range in Australia (more than 320 SKUs!). Located in a coastal town where people love outdoor entertaining, we offer every dip known to mankind at Ritchies Dromana and guess what? They all sell! This is a great example of differentiation.

Local: How do you show your shoppers that you are local?

Ritchies is certainly the heart and center of the local Dromana community. We employ more than 150 team members at this store, many who live locally. We also work very hard with local producers to carry their products in their store, including a number of fine wine producers. The Dromana and Mornington Peninsula region is famous for its pinot noir, pinot grigio, and chardonnay. We have a fantastic selection to offer, with the white wines always chilled and ready to serve.

Ritchies is famous for our Community Benefit program, whereby Ritchies donates a percentage of the money spent by customers to their nominated local club, school, or charity. To date, Ritchies have donated more than $49 million cash to more than 4,000 local organisations. Nominated by our Dromana store customers, some major recipients of this program include the local fire brigade, who have received more than $326,000; the local primary school has received over $293,000; and the Dromana secondary school donations total more than $140,000 since the inception of this program 20 years ago.

Our customers love supporting their local organisations and it absolutely makes a difference in the community. Our chain competitors do not do this and it is only at Ritchies that you can nominate your favourite organisation to receive a percentage of your shop each month to help make a real difference.

Fresh: How are you concentrating on fresh?

Our focus on fresh has led to our supermarket's success. Prior to our renovation in November 2016, our fresh food sales represented approximately 32 percent of supermarket mix. Today, this number is in excess of 43 percent and in fact, 45 percent of the store footprint is now devoted to fresh. It’s very hard to create a point of difference around grocery items, but with fresh, you can make a real difference.

For example, we offer beautiful arrangements of fresh sushi handmade on the premises, which is a real winner with the locals. Our mussel tank sells bucket loads a day of live, fresh mussels to our customers when in season. Hung in the dry-aged room with backlit Himalayan salt blocks, our dry-aged beef is a proven winner that melts in the mouth.  The driving force of our store, our deli is “centre of house” with diverse and multinational offerings making it the very best in the region.

Our customers are delighted with our daily fresh offerings. It takes a real commitment to be successful in fresh and it is critical to set the department up correctly and then have the right people driving the business. It’s a real art, but if you are successful, the results and rewards are outstanding.

IGA: How does IGA (the brand and its programs) help you compete? 

IGA has been part of the Ritchies business for more than 20 years. Of our many customers who know us as Ritchies, there are an equal number who know us as IGA. We are happy with either, as long as customers know and recognize our brand and more importantly, are happy to shop with us.

IGA has covered many good initiatives over the years, but I truly believe the best initiative that the IGA head office in Australia has undertaken has been the OEP (Operational Excellence Program) assessments. The IGA business managers vigorously assess our stores and points are awarded or deducted, based on the standards of the store and what the customer sees. This program is not designed to trick our store managers, but rather to critically view our stores through the eyes of a customer.

Our Dromana store has achieved one of the best scores in Australia, having recently achieved OEP Gold Standard. We are now setting our sights on becoming an OEP Platinum store, the highest recognition in the country. Our team is very motivated and looks forward to the assessments that can occur any time of the day or night any day of the week. We never know when the business managers are coming in to assess, so we look our best every minute of the day and present an outstanding offer to our customers at all times.

Whilst we do have our own identity as Ritchies, we are proudly part of the IGA group and fully support and comply with all promotional and marketing initiatives. Put simply, it’s about the customer’s shopping experience, and at Ritchies IGA Dromana, we put our best foot forward every hour of every day.

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