Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Big stores bright spot for jobless

New shops for a growing city add hundreds of opportunities to take the first steps towards a secure career.

Ticketer Emilee Irving enjoys being involved in setting up the new Warehouse store at Silverdale. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Ticketer Emilee Irving enjoys being involved in setting up the new Warehouse store at Silverdale. Photo / Steven McNicholl

More than 300 jobs were filled north of the Auckland Harbour Bridge this week with the opening of two Countdown supermarkets and a Warehouse store.

Yesterday, a Countdown and a Warehouse opened in the new $60 million, 35-shop Silverdale Centre and on Wednesday, a Countdown opened in Warkworth.

Silverdale has been promoted in the Auckland Plan to town centre status, and big retailers see it as a strategic location in the midst of 48,000 residents, tipped to grow to 110,000 by 2031.

The Warehouse store is 7500sq m and employs 111, while 110 work at the 3600sq m Countdown. They are the anchor tenants in the new shopping centre which has employed 150 construction workers for two years.

About a kilometre down the Hibiscus Coast highway, another supermarket giant, Foodstuffs, opened a Pak 'n Save in March, which employs 200. Each store attracted 900 to 1200 job applications months before opening.

Auckland Council economic development chairman Arthur Anae said the big-format stores were a bright spot of job creation, although the Auckland Plan's aspirations highlighted a desire for export-driven enterprise.

"Sure we are lifting our bar for as high as we can but, in the present situation, whatever jobs are being created I am happy to see it. We have to strive in any way we can to create jobs for our young people.

"These retail places are long-term investments, which means job security is there."

Countdown's general manager of human resources, Gillian Davie, said each time a supermarket opened it created jobs, although 20 per cent of the roles might be filled by people transferred from other stores.

In the case of Warkworth, 80 per cent of the 76 fulltime and part-time staff were local residents and new to the company.

"We see creating jobs in communities is something we need to do. We take that responsibility seriously. We see our people as our competitive advantage in the market."

About 4000 Countdown staff at its 163 supermarkets were completing the national certificate in retail (level 2) as well as NZ Qualifications Authority-recognised apprenticeships in meat retailing, bakery, distribution and seafood.

Countdown also had store management development and management trainee programmes.

Ms Davie said supermarket openings meant more work for manufacturing plants, logistics firms, buying teams, marketing and property management.

Countdown will open a store in Manurewa on November 7 and has hired 150 full and part-time staff.

Early in the new year, another Countdown store will open in Stoddard Rd, Mt Roskill, with at least 100 positions going.

The parent company has also lodged a resource consent application for a supermarket in Williamson Ave, Ponsonby, on the Soho site.

The Warehouse will also be opening a new store in Mt Roskill next year, and is processing 1200 applications made on its online jobs register.

Two weeks ago it opened a new store in Pah Rd, Royal Oak, with 103 staff.

The retail secretary of the FIRST Union, Maxine Gray, said shop workers who joined unions had been able to win wage increases to keep up with the cost of living.

"Countdown workers negotiated wage increases of 10 per cent over a two-year period between 2011 and 2013," she said.

"Last month, 2000 union members at The Warehouse ratified a new agreement that ensures no one will get less than a 3 per cent increase and a significant number will gain more than that."

Present rates at The Warehouse mean a team member for the first year gets $14.15 to $15.59 an hour while a specialist earns between $16.42 and $17.67 an hour.

Hourly rates at Countdown for retails assistant are $15 to $15.48.

Baking and butchery apprentices start on $12.11 an hour and progress to $19.88. Supervisors earn $16.60 to $17.12 an hour.

Warehouse job just the ticket for Emilee

The attraction of learning about business has Emilee Irving happily driving a 50km round trip from her home in Sandspit to a job at the new Warehouse store in Silverdale.

The 17-year-old is starting her retail career as a ticketer - she writes the "specials" tags on the shelves - and works morning or afternoon shifts.

"I have been training at the Albany store and have a lot to learn from a good ticketer.

"It a privilege to be part of the transformation from empty shelves to a store."

Miss Irving said that since she left school she had worked as a supervisor for a company hiring out children's play equipment and worked on landscaping projects including planting out a wetland.

She is studying for a Level 2NCEA qualification by correspondence.

"It is tough getting a job if you don't have qualifications. I have a few friends older than me who can't get one.

"I got this one myself and applied online and went to the interview. I was so nervous.

"With this business you can go higher and expand, and I really like business stuff."

Student sets sights on career at supermarket

Business studies student Kaushal Patel, 23, found himself in a busy role on his first day of work in the new Countdown supermarket store in Silverdale.

"I'm on a job-search visa and this is my first full-time job," said the trainee storeman and member of the store's "night fill" team who restock the shelves.

"It seems to be a good career because I can get promotion to assistant long-life [grocery] manager."

He hopes to follow the example of John Sumen, 28, who in three years working for Countdown has progressed from night fill assistant to assistant long-life manager in the new store.

From India, Mr Sumen joined Countdown after post-graduate business management study at Massey University.

"I loved to stay back each day to learn the job - not for money but to learn what I can."

Mr Sumen said being appointed to a new store was a good opportunity.

"It is a good business for a career, because even in a recession people do shop."

Big store jobs

Countdown
* Warkworth 76 full and part-time
* Silverdale 110
* Manurewa (opening November 7) 150
* Mt Roskill (opening early 2013) 100

The Warehouse
* Silverdale 111
* Pah Rd, Royal Oak103

Pak 'n Save
* Silverdale 200.

- NZ Herald

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