New Sunrise

Leaders Forum: Steve Cardinale, Managing Director, New Sunrise

As part of the 2023 C&I Industry Leaders Forum, Steve Cardinale, Managing Director, New Sunrise discusses the group’s award winning retail offer along with its future plans.

C&I: What have been the highlights for New Sunrise over the past six to 12 months?

Cardinale: There have been many key highlights, but a key one was New Sunrise winning the AACS National Retailer of the Year in March 2023. I am extremely proud and humbled to receive this recognition, and so pleased that our hardworking, innovative team and members have been recognised for the outstanding effort and results delivered.

In 2022, New Sunrise sales across our retail network had grown by 20 per cent year-on-year, which is off the back of YOY growth above the market for the last five years. I see this recognition as a reflection of the total New Sunrise team working collaboratively with members and suppliers, bringing our strategy to life in focusing on mutuality, visibility, execution, and growth. I wish to thank the supplier partners that contributed to New Sunrise receiving this award.

Further, it was fantastic to see Mood Food Kempton win AACS Best Overall Store Of the Year, after winning Best Independent Store of the year earlier in the night. My congratulations to Troy Bennett and all the Mood Food team on delivering such a world class offer, taking convenience to a whole new level.

Another key highlight was at our largest ever New Sunrise Iceworks Conference held in Hawaii in November 2022. I was so pleased to be able to have the father of the ‘independents’, David Goldberger, present at our conference. Many people do not know his story, so it was an inspiring highlight to have him recount it at the conference.

Goldberger was instrumental in paving a way forward for independent petrol retailers to succeed in Australia. He was the first person to introduce fuel discounts, the first person to build an independent brand, and the first independent to import fuel into Australia. All delegates, both suppliers and retailers, found his story inspiring and a highlight of our business session.

C&I: What will be your main priorities for the remainder of 2023?

Cardinale: As a business, our top three priorities continue to be:

  1. Drive growth for our independent retailers. This will never change or waver. We will look to maintain double-dight growth in a tough economic climate.
  2. Continue to be the most respected team of people in the industry.
  3. Make Sunny the most loved mascot in Australia. We will continue to build Sunrise brand awareness through Sunny with a greater investment in TV, radio and digital.

C&I: What are the most important topics the industry should be discussing in 2023?

Cardinale: Firstly, reducing regulation and both RED and GREEN tape: The industry is over regulated and undervalued by Government. The operating costs of a service station are much higher than a c-store without fuel. High penalty rates are higher than hospitality and large retail stores. This needs to change if we are going to be remain competitive.

Secondly, alcohol being sold in c-stores. It just makes sense to offer this in our stores, with the changing market forces, we need to be able to add new categories to our existing offer and be on par with the rest of the world.

Finally, recruiting talent into our industry. Store management can often be seen as a job to do while studying, rather than a serious career in retail. I think retail management is a specialist position and it would be great if we could look at the way we recruit and keep talent. Similar with supplier partners. 

C&I: What does your crystal ball tell you about the future of convenience in Australia?

Cardinale: The three things (my somewhat clouded) crystal ball tell me:

  1. I see a heavy focus on operating costs, working inventory and gross profit margin expectations. In the short term it will be challenging. We are facing a poor economic outlook and Government monetary policies are fuelling inflation. If this is not managed correctly it will affect sales and customer experience and lead to a downward spiral. 
  2. I foresee a need to review and recalibrate the retail margin mix, so we become less dependent on tobacco. Tobacco continues to demand 38 per cent of shop sales in the overall industry, with the better retailers, dare I say, many of our members, succeeding in reducing this giving more weight to coffee, foodservice, and other categories. 
  3. I can see some upcoming consumer confusion in the market, with retailers for sale or selling or merging with others. This presents a new clash of values and operating models, as customers become familiar with the new offers and brand propositions. Interesting times ahead.      

C&I: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Cardinale: I LOVE what I do. When you boil it down, ‘Selling stuff and working with the best people in the industry’ (which has been voted by suppliers via CMA), is a great job.

What drives us as a business is to be able to be a strong retail support structure for a great bunch of independent business. Together we have created a well-respected retail network, which continues to grow stronger each year.

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

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