Face Time with Kellie Struth from APCO

From a small coastal town in Victoria, to becoming the Head of Category and Marketing at APCO, Kellie Struth has a passion for the P&C industry while balancing her love of sports, family, travel, and her toy cavoodle. This is her story…

I grew up in the small coastal town of Warrnambool, Victoria, with my Mum, Dad and two younger sisters – Kim and Jess. Growing up in a smaller town afforded me quite a bit of freedom and my childhood weekends were filled with sports and friends.

I was fortunate enough to try my hand at many sports, from tennis and volleyball to hockey and swimming. I even became one of the first female footy umpires.

My first job was as a pharmacy dispensary assistant, however, it didn’t end up being such a great fit for me. The requirement to wear a white coat, court shoes, and bright red lipstick definitely wasn’t my thing. I quickly got out of there and landed a job at Target when I was 15 and even managed to organise a transfer to Melbourne so I could continue working with them while pursuing my university studies.

In my 20s, as many young Australians do, I went on a Contiki trip that broadened my horizons beyond the confines of my small town. Over the course of my career, I have been lucky enough to have some amazing jobs that allowed me to travel extensively, particularly in my role as a buyer. I travelled to countries such as China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia to develop and source new products.

Kellie with the APCO leadership team. Credit: Pat Brunet / Event Photos Australia

My work also took me to the US and UK on retail study trips, where I visited fantastic stores in Los Angeles, London, and Paris. On many occasions I was able to tack on personal time in a few of those countries to catch up with old friends and have some wonderful adventures, particularly in the UK.

Just last year I was fortunate to attend the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) International Study Trip, where I was able to see a few places I’d never been before. I’m very much looking forward to this year’s trip and ticking a few more places off my bucket list.

Over my career, I’ve worked my way from a junior to senior category manager, working across many different categories over the years and have been involved in everything from buying and planning to supply chain and replenishment.

After having kids, I transitioned into an analyst role that gave me a broader understanding of business by working across various departments and helping with business process transformation. Working as an analyst taught me how to interpret data and use it to effect change.

Currently, I am the Head of Category and Marketing at APCO, a position I consider a privilege because I get to work with some of the most genuine, caring, and considerate people. As a team, we have experienced many highs over the last couple of years, particularly our Wangaratta store, which picked up NACS Asia Pacific Convenience Retailer of the Year, AACS Store of the Year, and AACS Independent Store of the Year. It was pretty special.

Kellie and her family.

Another highlight was joining the APCO Foundation Board, which has accomplished incredible work over the last decade. I am proud to be part of their efforts. In the next five years, I hope to still be at APCO, continuing to make a difference and gaining a deeper understanding of the fuel aspect of our business.

If I had to give any advice to retailers, I would say not to get complacent. The pace is fast in our industry, and the ability to be agile and evolve is more important than ever. For suppliers, it is essential to make it your business to understand the retailer’s business and show that you are invested. Spend time in their stores, listen, understand what is important to them, and then make it as simple and easy as you can for them to work with you.

Away from work, I have my partner Prouty, my three kids – Charlie, Tobie, and Ruby – and our toy cavoodle Milo. Our life is pretty hectic, so in any spare time, I love nothing more than a walk on the beach with Milo, getting to the gym for a pump class, or playing tennis with friends.

This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine, which is available online here.

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