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Roundtable Series: Wade Death, Jack & Co

Wade Death: Director, Jack & Co

What changes seen in the industry over the past year?

The overwhelming change is obviously that the industry as a whole is going after food, whereas it used to be patchy at best. Nearly all major chains have a food-centric offer and are putting some pretty great stores to market. There’ll naturally be some fallout from that and obviously some elements will work and some will not. Even though we are a convenience industry, I think as a whole we’re only really waking up to how big the opportunity of ‘foodvenience’ really is.

What are the current issues facing the industry in your opinion?

I think there are two great issues facing us. The first is around the wage structure; to think that we have an award based on motor mechanics and vehicle servicing is so archaic. When I explain to our baristas and baking staff in the business that they are paid under an award created for people changing tyres and oil, I feel like an idiot. We pay significant premiums over industries that we compete with (like McDonald’s and the Retail and Hospitality Awards) and it simply isn’t fit for the growth we’re all chasing.

The second issue is about regulatory pressure on the fuel retailing side. I recently read a report calling on fuel retailers to explain why they weren’t retailing at the same margin as 2003! Beer was probably $3, wage rates were probably about $14 p/h, electricity costs would have been half and the average house was probably worth $300,000. The government continues to pass draconian legislation and then wonders why prices go up. We need to stand our ground as an industry and ensure people know they can’t have it both ways.

Any personal milestones and/or company achievements you would like to highlight?

When I created our fresh food-centric offer almost six years ago it turned a lot of heads and I think a huge number of people thought ‘that’ll never work’. But a huge number of people realised that it was time the industry changed and we’ve become more customer-centric. As a whole I think our industry offers far better stores and far better alternatives than it did only a few years ago which is great.

What are your predictions for the industry over the next 12 months?

I think the pressure between retailers and suppliers will build over the next 12 months. The retailers are being levied with record compliance and regulatory pressure, wage increases applied to our industry have been the highest ever and we’re all spending record amounts of capital on upgrades. In some sectors we’re probably buying right, but in many instances our suppliers look at our industry as a high margin avenue for their products and it has to stop.

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