Bigger and better for store

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Farmlands chief executive officer Tanya Houghton.
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Farmlands is on the move into a larger custom-fit Ashburton premises, in a section of the former Bunnings building on West Street.

They will open to customers and shareholders in the coming weeks.

Farmlands chief executive officer Tanya Houghton said the new flagship store would have more retail space to give all customers a better shopping experience.

‘‘Our new (company) purpose is to be the go-to for everyone connected to our land,’’ she said.

It will also be a trial store, where ideas will be put into action, and if successful rolled out to other branches.

‘‘We will be trialling a range of new concepts designed to cater to both of our core customer groups. It will have an enhanced retail and technical expertise experience, amazing community space and our FeedBarn brand will be brought to life.

‘‘We are trying different things,’’ she said, of the store fitout and product lay out.

‘‘We’re really working to get more product on the floor and have it better merchandised so people can find what they need in a faster way.’’

It was part of the company’s focus to get the basics right in their operations, and lift profits for their almost 80,000 shareholders, who this year will receive part of an $8.5m distribution for the first time since 2018.

‘‘Our strong financial performance for the year, despite covid challenges and a disrupted supply chain, was built on doing the basics well – lifting profit and tightly controlling operating costs.’’

The move to bigger premises had been in the pipeline prior to Ms Houghton taking on the CEO role just over a year ago. She has extensive board and governance experience, and at chief executive and chief operating officer level in Australia and New Zealand business, most recently as chief executive of MoleMap ANZ Group. Farmlands new Ashburton retail store, which sits next to Smiths City on West Street, is three times the size of Farmlands’ current store and has an additional six people, with retail focus, who have been employed.

It will open seven days a week, have more product and offer a better shopping experience, she said, with considered purchases such as apparel, household and gardening goods, feed, supplements and products for all types of animals across all the farm industries.

As well as a drive-in loading dock for large purchases, and separate access and meeting space for shareholders, there will also be a tap-and-go payment pet wash area at the front of the building, available for 24/7 use.

It’s been laid it out in sections whether it be trade products for core farmers with immediate or functional need, or in areas where there might be more browsing and considered purchasers, she said.

Ms Houghton arrived at Farmlands with a significant change agenda to refocus the cooperative on good commercial decision making to strengthen Farmlands delivery for customers and shareholders.

Earlier this year she shared her change plans with shareholders which included performing better, simplifying the business, lifting profitability, increasing the relevancy of Farmlands to its customers, and looking after all the great Farmlands employees supporting rural communities.

‘‘What’s really cool is you’re buying from Farmlands which is a quintessential New Zealand brand owned by New Zealand farmers.

‘‘All of our profit is put back into the sector,’’ Ms Houghton said.

A soft opening for the new store is planned at the end of the month with the official opening set for the annual general meeting with shareholders on November 3.