“I don’t want us to become boring. I want it to be an exciting experience for the shopper, somewhere where you can bring the family, and engage with our team,” he says.
Countdown’s first premium store opened on Thursday to much fanfare, social media buzz and all round general appreciation.
“We really wanted a store that fitted the Ponsonby community who are passionate about good food, and health and wellness. Not all stores fit their community,” he says.
Countdown’s buying team worked tirelessly for six months to bring on a whole bunch of new vendors, most of whom trade under $1 million a year.
“We managed to line up with local suppliers including Rocket Kitchen, Best Ugly Bagels, and Panetton. For Rocket Kitchen, it was their first experience supplying a large format supermarket,” he says.
When asked about challenges, McQuoid says engaging all the new vendors in such a small amount of time and taking them through the process of selling to a supermarket.
The design of the store is also a step away from the traditional supermarket layout.
The service cases of the deli and seafood section are lower than normal, so the team can stand and easily have a conversation with the customers.
There aren’t the usual walls in the bakery and butchery concealing them from the main supermarket floor. “Shoppers can see the bakers baking the bread and the butchers using the band saws. There really are no secrets behind our walls.”
The healthfoods section was another massive undertaking, and Countdown has sourced 480 products from new vendors. It has an extra wide aisle, wooden floors and different signage.
Then there is the cellar at the back of the store, which is like a store inside the store. Inside, is an enthusiastic, full-time qualified sommelier who matches wines for customers and allow them to try wines.
The store has a range of qualified chefs, all with backgrounds in hospitality, who will help customers with recipes, share ingredients and products, and put on food demonstrations.
For McQuoid, it is a dream job. He started at Countdown when he was 15 years old, and has spent the last thirteen years working for them.
“This is the first store I’ve opened, and I was really excited at launch. The team is extremely enthusiastic,” he said.