One year to the day since re-opening as The Fox’s Pantry, Hollie Fox and her father Richard, won the Independent Store of the Year Award at the AACS Awards last night in Melbourne.

The journey of the store from what Hollie calls a small ‘average’ servo to a health food store and independent grocer that sells fuels at the Gold Coast location of Tugun has seen the store recognised nationally as the best of its kind.

In an exclusive interview with C&I following the win last night, Hollie shared her thoughts on the reasons behind why the store was successful.

“We have completely changed what convenience is all about, with a focus towards health-on-the-go – it is completely different to what it used to be about. Winning this award has helped us share our vision and is the best thing that we could have asked for.

“The reasoning behind the branding was about getting people in from the outside – yes we are a BP service station but when you walk in it doesn’t look like a normal service station. We have a whole range of health foods, a range of organic vegetables, fresh meat from a local butcher, we make all of the fresh food on site from scratch, and if we don’t make it then it is all locally sourced.

“Everything is carefully chosen in the store. Our big vision is to take everything out that is stocked within Coles and Woolworths, as for us it is hard to compete with the large supermarkets, and at the same time, we want to support as many of the local suppliers as we can.

“The profile of the typical customer at the store has changed from tradies on their way to work who were looking for a healthier option – we still have those customers who are coming in looking for a bit of protein – but we have seen more of the mothers coming in – and they are focused around their own health and their family’s health. Our local area is already very health conscious but on average the mothers spend over $100 each time in store. We have found they are not coming in for a single purchase – they are coming in for a weekly shop.

“During Covid, we had one lady who lived about half an hour from our store at Tugun, and she was spending over $300 at a time in the store – and she was bulk-buying products in the store such as bone broth and collagen powder – once again it was not the one purchase. Everyone seems to have changed their buying behaviour – and as a result we have seen more and more people doing their weekly shop.

“I was initially unsure about stocking items with premium pricing in the store, because I was not sure that people would pay for it, but buyer behaviour shows people are prepared to pay for things like organic vegetables and they are also prepared to travel for these items.

“At Christmas we had a number of gift boxes with collagen powder (which normally sells at $45 for a 500g tub) packaged with a jade face roller for $115 and we sold out of those. We also sell a litre of bone broth for $35, and our supplier cannot keep up with demand.

“I can’t thank my team enough because we would not be able to do what we are doing and pursuing our vision without them. We have never hired a service station operator, we have hired someone who has experience in customer service and experience in cafes. They have helped us along the entire journey and are very flexible when we come up with the next crazy idea for the business and they are always there to support and back me.”

The other finalists in the category of Independent Store of the Year were: BP Canadian Bowser Bean Cafe and Jack & Co Nortwood.

Written by James Wells

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