As part of the 2021 C&I Industry Leaders Forum, Steve Cardinale, Retail Director at New Sunrise, tells us how the business has managed to achieve double-digit sales growth over the past 12 months.

We also hear about New Sunrise’s plans for the next 12 months, which include continuing to increase consumer awareness of the Sunrise Enjoy Local brand as being a store that is operated by a true local.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about convenience and what is one challenge you’d like to see addressed in the industry?

Cardinale: I love the resilience, adaptability and innovation shown by the independents. New Sunrise members are nimble and quick to act – these guys are genuine locals, and they care. They are our inspiration and why we love going to work every day.

One of the challenges remains the complexities in the supply chain that we continue to look to remove. Given the vast distance of stores across the country, fragmented supply chain model and mounting pressure and competition from Coles and Woolworths, this remains a challenge for the independents. 

C&I: Highlight one achievement at New Sunrise that you’re particularly proud of from over the past 12 months:

Cardinale: Despite the challenges faced, there were many silver linings throughout the year. New Sunrise saw double-digit sales growth across all major suppliers, grew in-store count as a group, and were recognised and rated by suppliers, again, as the number one independent national retailer in Australia through CMA Pulse survey. However, the one achievement we are most proud, of is our fast and comprehensive response to COVID.

At the onset of the pandemic, there was a lot of confusion and uncertainty on how it would affect our industry, and to further complicate matters, there was no national approach on how to address the issues.

To help the independents stay informed, we sent out daily COVID updates based on advice we received from ACAPMA. We also shared marketing insights from several sources such as IRI and CMA. We communicated daily with our independent retailers. This helped us understand what was required to remain compliant, but more importantly it gave us clarity. This information reduced stress in the workplace and helped us develop key marketing strategies to create and communicate a positive and safe place for locals and staff to shop and work. Our promotional strategies centred of being “clean, close and frugal”, with positive feedback from both members and suppliers letting us know “we had acted faster and led the way for independents”.

From this, many first were created for the independents: 

1. First to deploy a comprehensive COVID kit including sneeze guard, revised store floor plans (the loop store) and COVID communication at the pumps, front door, and counter.

2. We doubled down on advertising and increased our promotional activity. For the first time, New Sunrise ran across a national digital and free to air TV advertising campaign promoting each of our retail members.

3. We created a 12-week c-store bootcamp for retail members to refocus and reignite their sales post lockdown periods.  

4. We held five online industry events with industry experts to help retailers and suppliers stay informed about changes, stay connected in the digital world, and keep lines of communication open. Despite being separated physically, we remained connected in a much greater way.

Further, I am proud that we had the courage and the resolve to hold our annual conference in Port Douglas in April this year, which was carefully planned and measured, and was a first for the industry. We felt the strong desire for people wanting to reconnect. While the easier option would have been to cancel the event, I am grateful to my team, the suppliers and the retailers who all made it happen.

C&I: What is the primary focus for New Sunrise for the remainder of 2021?

Cardinale: New Sunrise is focussed on helping our retailers ‘Buy better, sell smarter and bank more’ – this is our key guiding principle, and our promise to our members.

We have many key initiatives we are working on outside our fundamentals, two of these being:

1. Continue to increase consumer awareness of the Sunrise Enjoy Local brand. We are wanting to make sure that everyone in Australia knows that a New Sunrise Enjoy Local store is a genuine local who works and lives with the locals. We are currently on National TV across both digital and free to air, as well as national morning radio advertising our members and their offers. We want all Aussies to see Sunny the Kookaburra and understand who he represents.

2. We are extremely excited of our recent announcement where New Sunrise will fund and place of 400 defibrillators (AED) across the network, giving access to millions of people to this potentially lifesaving device. New Sunrise has partnered with Heart of the Nation founder, and Original Yellow Wiggle, Greg Page in this initiative, and further reinforces the key role independent retail stores play in their local communities. We have long said that independents are the heart of their communities.

C&I: How do you envision the next six months for convenience retail?

Cardinale: With a large proportion of consumers intending to work from home for at least two to three days a week, convenience retail has a great opportunity to consolidate growth over the supermarket chains. There is further opportunity to drive this via foodservice and coffee, but this is only one part of the modern convenience retail offer. I see this as a new golden era of the modernised corner store, with fair consideration and respect to a new product and pricing mix to attract and retain the local shopper.   

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