As part of the 2021 Industry Leaders Forum, Darryl Cotter, General Manager Operations, outlines OTR’s focus for the remainder of 2021, which will include continued expansion and the further development of digital technology.

C&I: What is the primary focus for OTR right now?

Cotter: Despite COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, OTR continued to open more than 10 new stores and develop even greater innovation in our App and customer service experience. Therefore, it’s no surprise that expanding OTR’s network and giving more people the opportunity to gain employment and build a career, particularly in regional locations, will remain a focus in 2021.

The OTR digital App continues to be an area of focus and innovation. We added voice ordering using Siri last month, which enables customers to pre-order any item in their favourites and have it waiting for them when they arrive in-store. This provides a super easy and safe way for customers to order from OTR when they are out and about. Voice ordering via Android was rolled out in June.

Just prior to COVID-19, OTR launched a new initiative in partnership with Community Corporate, the ‘New Beginnings Program’. We are so excited to see this program move into its second year within OTR, as it provides meaningful employment opportunities to disadvantaged job seekers who need a little extra support to secure a job, including refugees, migrants, young people and women returning to the workforce.

New Beginnings prepares candidates for the expectations of employment through three stages: pre-employment training, work experience, and stable employment. Since the launch of the program, OTR has been able to assist and support approximately 40 candidates, resulting in a 12-month retention rate of 86 per cent. In 2021, OTR plans to expand this program to assist job seekers displaced by COVID into full-time employment and expanding the existing program throughout regional locations.

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

Cotter: Convenience retail must align to all our customer needs, not just a quick offer of food on the go, or everyday essentials on the way home. The future of convenience is about providing solutions for all occasions and becoming part of our customer’s lifestyle choices, for example, I need a healthy snack; I need to grab a gift for mum for Mother’s Day. OTR is working on how best to provide this solution because we know that customers expect options in our stores to be aligned to their needs, in a quick and accessible way 24/7.

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

Cotter: The best part of our industry is its people. As in any business, the people you work with determine your enjoyment. Here at OTR I am fortunate to work with so many dedicated people whose passion is infectious, which makes life genuinely enjoyable for their team and our customers. One of the challenges that still remains in the convenience industry is the delicate balance of supply and demand across a widening range of fresh and stable produce with variable shelf lives and demand cycles.

This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of C&I Retailing Magazine.

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