Australia’s increasing desire to enjoy a hyperlocal shopping experience has continued to create new retail opportunities for small business owners across the country with another independent supermarket opening its doors in NSW this year.
Once-popular fruit and vegetable shop in Tarrawanna, north of Wollongong in the Illawarra region, the newest FoodWorks Local store has launched with a focus on fast and convenient access to high-quality produce and groceries.
Recognising the growing demand in the area, co-owners Kevin Gao and Tim Ju identified the opportunity with the support of Australian United Retailers – owners of the FoodWorks brand – and took over the site earlier this year.
The existing 400sqm retail space had undergone a refresh before launching in early May, with the supermarket boasting an extensive range of grocery items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, bakery, frozen, pantry staples and household essentials.
Mr Gao says FoodWorks Tarrawanna opened with a clear vision to be known for its convenience and as a place where locals can easily complete their daily grocery shop.
“Tarrawanna has been crying out for a convenience grocery store,” he said.
“The previous fruit and veg shop was the only grocery offering here, and locals had increasingly started relying on supermarkets in neighbouring areas for all of their food shopping.
“That store had been operating under various owners for more than 20 years, but their trade had quietened significantly during the past five years,” Mr Gao said.
Adding to the shopping concerns for the Tarrawanna community is that the nearest major stores are in Wollongong, which means navigating significant traffic and parking challenges to access a supermarket.
“We wanted to build a new offering in Tarrawanna that would serve the community’s needs with a proper supermarket that is perfect for their mid-week shop.
“We’re pleased that in our first few weeks of trade we’ve already had many customers visiting who say they used to shop here years ago and they’ve come back because they’re happy to have a FoodWorks store open in the area,” Mr Gao said.
Australians are increasingly focusing on time-saving measures that help them to spend more time doing what they love, and are reprioritising recreation and family time.
“As a smaller supermarket, one of the greatest differences we can offer to our customers is food that is quick and easy to prepare,” he said.
“We have a range of hot food that makes lunch and dinner a breeze, with low or no effort required to put a fresh and healthy meal on the table.
“We also have a fresh lunch offer, including salads and rolls, that is proving popular.
“It’s important to our customers that they reduce how long is being spent shopping and cooking each week, so our retail offering has been closely aligned to that demand for convenience foods to put in their shopping baskets,” Mr Gao said.
Mr Gao and Mr Ju, who are new faces in Tarrawanna but live in the Illawarra region, have been focused on quickly getting to know the store’s locals.
“Tim and I have been eager to meet the locals and we’ve been very focused on connecting with the community,” he said.
“FoodWorks Tarrawanna has already been involved in some donations of fruit to local organisations and we look forward to growing this going forward.
“We are also committed to finding ways that our customers can give feedback and influence what is on the shelves in the store.”
FoodWorks Tarrawanna has also embraced the site’s former glory with a continental deli offering front and centre.
“We have maintained the deli counter, which is filled with everyday items our customers want in a local supermarket plus many gourmet products with a European influence that suit our shoppers’ demographic,” Mr Gao said.
“There is a big Italian community in the greater Wollongong area and we’ve received lots of feedback thanking us for stocking products that suit their tastes.”
Mr Gao and Mr Ju joined the Australian United Retailers network when they opened their first FoodWorks store in Koonawarra, 15 minutes’ drive from Tarrawanna, around ten years ago.
“We had worked hard to build up a busy convenience store and then in 2014 we decided to extend our offering,” he said.
“We wanted to become a branded supermarket and chose FoodWorks because they have a good name and are well known, particularly in the Illawarra area.
“Since joining the FoodWorks and Australian United Retailers family, we have enjoyed that they are very good at supporting small and local businesses.”
For more information, visit foodworkstarrawanna.myfoodworks.com.au.