Craig Travers is proudly serv­ing the mid-Can­ter­bury com­mu­nity – like gen­er­a­tions of gro­cers be­fore him.

There have been count­less ca­reers in New Zealand launched off the back of stack­ing shelves at the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket.

For Dunedin-born, In­ver­cargill-raised Craig Travers, his first em­ployer at the ten­der age of 16 was the lo­cal PAK’nSAVE. Lit­tle did he know that the su­per­mar­ket in­dus­try would pro­vide his ca­reer path and ul­ti­mately his own busi­ness.

In 2000 Craig se­cured a po­si­tion at New World Wanaka with more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, such as or­der­ing, fork­lift op­er­a­tion, al­co­hol sales, and a duty man­ager’s po­si­tion. He was also given the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in Food­stuffs Academy Pro­gramme.

Three years later, a de­sire for a change in lo­ca­tion took Craig to New World Mos­giel in Dunedin, where he dis­cov­ered a pas­sion for fresh foods – specif­i­cally fruit and veg­eta­bles – and a de­sire to op­er­ate his own store.

The next rung on the lad­der was a pro­duce retail sup­port ad­viser po­si­tion at Food­stuffs South Is­land in Christchurch,

sup­port­ing pro­duce man­agers and store own­ers. Then, as pro­duce retail oper­a­tions man­ager, Craig looked af­ter all retail oper­a­tions in­clud­ing pro­mos, new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and strate­gic ob­jec­tives.

His star was ris­ing. When the chance to pur­chase Four Square Fair­lie came up in June 2015, the then 34-year-old grabbed it with both hands.

Craig and wife Chloe ar­rived in Fair­lie, pop­u­la­tion 4,158 (in­clud­ing sur­round­ing Macken­zie District), when son Fred­die was just ten weeks old and daugh­ter Hazel, two-and-a-half.

“I com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated the chal­lenges of taking on a new busi­ness while hav­ing a young fam­ily,” Craig re­calls.

Al­most overnight he was ex­pected to have all the an­swers for his 24 staff. “I be­came a butcher, baker, even an expert in HR.

“But I’m a big be­liever in find­ing peo­ple who know what I don’t and, thank­fully, through my con­nec­tions at Food­stuffs, I was able to seek ad­vice and sup­port from other owner op­er­a­tors.”

Craig was grate­ful for his many years of in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as the on­go­ing sup­port of the lo­cal com­mu­nity, and of Food­stuffs South Is­land, which had in­vested in his per­sonal de­vel­op­ment through its train­ing academy.

When he first ar­rived in Fair­lie, Craig no­ticed that many lo­cals trav­elled to Ti­maru, a 45-minute drive, to shop at one of the larger su­per­mar­kets. So he set about run­ning his Four Square to at­tract them back.

“A large part of what I’ve done is sim­ply lis­ten to my cus­tomers to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of their needs and re­quire­ments,” ex­plains Craig. “To gain an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of com­mu­nity needs I lis­tened to my staff, neigh­bours, friends, the lo­cal me­chanic, builder, cof­fee barista and school stu­dents.

“Our staff have an in­cred­i­ble amount of knowl­edge to draw from. They’ve lived in this com­mu­nity for gen­er­a­tions and col­lec­tively have decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in our su­per­mar­ket.”

Be­ing avail­able and ap­proach­able is also im­por­tant, says Craig. He en­joys talk­ing to other busi­ness own­ers; learn­ing about their ar­eas of ex­per­tise, and the en­vi­ron­ment and team cul­ture they’ve de­vel­oped. “It’s about un­der­stand­ing what makes them so suc­cess­ful and, if pos­si­ble, adapt­ing that to my own busi­ness.”

Time man­age­ment has been a chal­lenge. Craig ad­mits he’s the sort of per­son who wants to do ev­ery­thing now and ev­ery­thing to per­fec­tion.

“For a while there I was lit­er­ally pol­ish­ing plums! Thank­fully I have an amaz­ing team who are ca­pa­ble of taking on more re­spon­si­bil­ity and now man­age their own ar­eas of the store, en­abling me to bet­ter man­age my time.”


Sales have grown sig­nif­i­cantly un­der Craig’s watch and on the back of re­gional eco­nomic growth. The aver­age spend on trans­ac­tions is up more than 25 per­cent, he says.

“Part of that growth is due to im­ple­ment­ing my own ideas; fol­low­ing them through from con­cep­tion. Some­times the out­comes are not what you ex­pect. But you learn from the neg­a­tive as well as the pos­i­tive.”

There have been many im­prove­ments made to the store. The ex­te­rior has had a com­plete makeover, and there’s a spe­cial em­pha­sis around pro­mot­ing fresh foods, in­clud­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of an in-store butch­ery.

Craig’s main project has cen­tred on pro­duce – specif­i­cally range, qual­ity and value for money. Stand-out sea­sonal prod­uct pro­mo­tions have not gone un­no­ticed by cus­tomers – such as the ex­port-grade Cen­tral Otago cher­ries just prior to Christ­mas.

Other ini­tia­tives in­clude a food cater­ing ser­vice; a na­tion­wide flo­ral de­liv­ery ser­vice; a bi­cy­cle home de­liv­ery ser­vice; ex­ten­sive craft beer and wine se­lec­tions; healthy ‘food to go’ op­tions; plus barista-made cof­fee and fresh sushi made in-store.

Noth­ing es­caped Craig’s at­ten­tion – prod­uct range, pre­sen­ta­tion, and a new back-end tech­nol­ogy plat­form which can, for ex­am­ple, iden­tify ‘non­per­form­ing’ prod­ucts, have all been pri­or­i­ties.

“Ev­ery week we re­view an area of the store; look­ing at range, pre­sen­ta­tion, lo­ca­tion or even sim­ply chal­leng­ing the way we do things.”

While Craig’s su­per­mar­ket pro­vides one mas­sive por­tal to the com­mu­nity, Chloe’s GP prac­tice pro­vides an­other. Her pas­sion for medicine is just as strong as Craig’s pas­sion for the gro­cery busi­ness.

Thank­fully, the cou­ple quickly mas­tered the art of bal­anc­ing fam­ily and busi­ness. “Other than key pe­ri­ods such as long week­ends, Easter, Christ­mas and New Year, we both have week­ends off,” says Craig.

“This en­ables us to have qual­ity fam­ily time and enjoy this stun­ning part of the coun­try.”

His ad­vice for other busi­ness own­ers is to sim­ply make time for your fam­ily.

“It won’t make it­self!”


Life in Fair­lie has had it’s mo­ments. The Wed­nes­day af­ter taking over the busi­nesses, heavy snow cut the town’s power for 24 hours. Lo­cals were al­lowed to take what they needed, and pay later.

“It was in­cred­i­bly stress­ful,” says Craig. “But we knew we’d ar­rived at a pretty spe­cial com­mu­nity when ev­ery sin­gle per­son came back and paid in full by the close of busi­ness Fri­day.”

The town’s 150th An­niver­sary last year was a spe­cial time. A Ford Model T dis­played in the su­per­mar­ket proved to be a pow­er­ful mag­net – par­tic­u­larly for male shop­pers.

As far as Craig’s con­cerned, Four Square Fair­lie is still a work in progress. He en­joys his role, and his in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nity, but ad­mits he would love to even­tu­ally own and op­er­ate a larger su­per­mar­ket. He’ll also con­tinue to ac­tively sup­port Chloe’s ca­reer. And, just qui­etly, he’d be chuffed if lit­tle Hazel or Fred­die grew up to one day take over the fam­ily store.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.