Interview with Managing Director Chris Quin | Managing Director, Foodstuffs North Island

Chris Quin

"The future of everything we do will be built off a technology platform. Our future will be much more about shared data across multiple industries and extracting insights from that. Winning by deeper knowledge of your customer than anyone else drives a lot of things right across the business."

I am a massive fan of companies thinking global from day one – when you have something that has global appeal, and when you have something that you can carry competitive advantage into another market with. I think you just have to be really, really clear about the competitive advantage you carry into another market. So, saying it was really big in New Zealand is not a competitive advantage.

Urbanisation is massively impacting our organisation. If you look at the traditional view of a supermarket, it is a large piece of land with a large carpark with a large single-level big store. Urbanisation is going to change all of that. We have three metro stores now, in this market. There are no carparks and they are in the bottom of commercial buildings in the middle of the city – that is an urbanisation trend.

In almost every industry, people take comparatives from elsewhere in the world and put them into New Zealand and they don't quite work. One of the fundamental differences is that we drive our cars places, we don't often take public transport. The reason our technology take-ups are different is we don't spend half an hour on a train, on a tablet, because we are sitting driving a car. Our take-up in online food purchasing is also different because of these things. It doesn't mean you should ignore the trends, just make sure you get the context right for New Zealand.

One of the beautiful things about being a co-op and not a listed company is you can achieve both profitable growth and success in meeting wider stakeholder expectations. We don't need to report every quarter to anyone, and I don't have to meet the needs of a share market who are essentially only on one part of cash return. It is a 94-year-old organisation and I am the seventh leader and the first external, which tells you a bit about the dynamic of the place. Customer focus is an interesting thing for this place. Clearly the grocers are extremely customer focused. The difference for me, in a corporate, is the managers are looking up the chain at their career, and in our model they are only looking down into their store asking how do I get more customers?

The future of everything we do will be built off a technology platform. Our future will be much more about shared data across multiple industries and extracting insights from that. Winning by deeper knowledge of your customer than anyone else drives a lot of things right across the business. When I get to a point when every person can say ‘this is how my job affects customers shopping in the store' then I think we will do a lot of things right. We are at the beginning of this goal – it starts with us being clear on purpose.

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Mark Averill

CEO and Senior Partner, PwC New Zealand

Tel: +64 21 646 418

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