Growing from strength to strength, with the community at the heart of everything they do, the Hastings Co-op has a proud 102 year history. From humble beginnings as a dairy factory in 1916, they have grown into a continually evolving retailer with 15 businesses which employs more than 300 locals.
Tell us about your business, how long you’ve been operating and your main philosophy … We are a locally-owned and operated co-operative with a proud history in the Hastings, having celebrated 100 years in business in 2016. We were originally established by a group of dairy farmers who saw the benefits of joining forces and now have 15 businesses across the Hastings. By turnover, we are also the second largest consumer/retail co-operative in Australia. Our motto is “Locals supporting locals” and as we grow in size and diversity, our members and customers remain at the heart of everything we do.
What do you credit for your business’ longevity?
Customer service. That’s one thing that has stood the test of time. In today’s fast paced and ever-changing world, we haven’t lost sight of the personal touch, going the extra mile and knowing our customers by name.
How has your business grown over the years?
From humble beginnings as a dairy factory in 1916, we’ve evolved into a diverse retailer which employs more than 300 people across seven business units: fuel, supermarkets, bottle shops, department stores, hardware and rural supplies, cafés and condiment manufacturing.
We currently have 15 businesses in Wauchope, Port Macquarie and Comboyne, including: two Department Stores, three Hastings Co-op IGA supermarkets, two Supa IGA Plus Liquor stores, one Bottle-O store, two Caltex service stations, a bulk fuel depot, Comboyne Rural Store, Mitre 10 and CRT Wauchope, Stirling Green Café and the Bago Bluff condiment range. We also manage the Caltex service station in Bolwarra Road, Port Macquarie and have plans to open an IGA supermarket, hardware store and liquor store in the new Sovereign Hills town centre before Christmas next year.
What changes/innovations have you seen in your industry during your time?
Since the beginning of time, the retail market is constantly changing. Over the next decade domestic and international competitors will be a major factor, and we aim to adapt and stay nimble to ensure we provide the best retail experience possible.
Not only has competition and technology changed; customers’ expectations are also increasing. There’s a whole range of initiatives we’ve adopted and continue to work on to improve the lives of our members and customers. Providing the best retail experience is far more valuable to the local community’s economic sustainability than a digital keyboard, a cheap foreign product or foreign raider who contributes little to the local community.
How many employees did you have at the start, and has that number grown?
We started with a handful of dairy farmers and now have more than 300 employees. The new Sovereign Hills IGA will also employee 100 locals when it opens next year.
Have any of your employees been with you a long time?
We’re lucky to have quite a number of employees with more than 30 years of service, and our longest serving employee has been with us for 49 years, which is quite an achievement.
What is your point of difference?
There are countless things we do differently across the 15 businesses, but in general Hastings Co-op stands by the following five points of difference: we support (local producers and other businesses); we give back (to community, sporting and charity groups and schools); we are different (in our customer service and willingness to make doing business with us easy); we provide choice (when many of our competitors are limiting their ranges); and we reward (issuing $257,610 worth of reward vouchers to shareholders and Co-op 100 members in the 2016 -17 financial year).