Supermarkets rebranded in $1b overhaul

By Maria Slade

Peter Smith unveiled the new Countdown colour scheme and logo at Westgate Mall yesterday. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Peter Smith unveiled the new Countdown colour scheme and logo at Westgate Mall yesterday. Photo / Paul Estcourt

It's Countdown but not as you know it, promises supermarket boss Peter Smith.

Progressive Enterprises, owner of the Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown brands, has announced it is uniting all its supermarkets under one Countdown banner.

The revamped grey and green livery with a stylised apple logo was unveiled at Countdown Westgate yesterday.

Mr Smith, Progressive's managing director, said it had been operating the new Countdown concept at the former Foodtown Greenlane site for a year, and business had gone from strength to strength.

This was not the old, rundown Countdown format that some shoppers might associate with the brand, he said.

The new stores had a diverse range of fresh food, a bigger grocery range, wide aisles and a brighter environment.

"We looked very carefully at which of our three brand names to go forward with, and we are absolutely certain that Countdown is what smart shoppers want."

No stores would be closed, even though in some places such as Glenfield Mall - where there is a Countdown and a Foodtown - the company may end up with two Countdowns opposite each other.

Mr Smith said it was working with shopping malls on how to handle that situation.

Old favourites like the Signature Range own brand would stay, and in some cases ranges may even be expanded.

The $1 billion rollout would occur over five years. Stores would be built or get their Countdown makeover in line with Progressive's existing building and refurbishment schedule.

Mr Smith conceded the possibility that some customers might be turned off, thinking of Countdown as a budget supermarket. "That's why I'm very keen to say, when we change that brand we actually do something on the inside."

Retail analyst Tim Morris of Coriolis Research said Progressive, owned by Woolworths Limited in Australia, was employing the same strategy it had used across the Tasman.

It had aimed at the mid to lower market there and had rebranded supermarket groups it had acquired as Woolworths.

"I think they looked at their positioning in Australia and said 'what brand in New Zealand best fits that and the strategy we want?'."

The new apple logo links the company to its Australian cousins, where Woolworths supermarkets are also gradually receiving the new symbol.

Mr Morris said it was unusual for supermarket operators overseas to have more than one brand in a market, and there was now little differentiation between the Woolworths, Foodtown and Countdown offerings anyway. "Why bother having all that additional infrastructure?"

Jonathan Dodd, research director of market research firm Synovate, said in the recession there had been a shift towards supermarkets that were perceived as cheaper. "The growth of the Countdown brand at the expense of Foodtown and Woolworths would have been quite expected."

However, he questioned whether it was a sound strategy long term to reduce three brands to one, rather than to keep a premium brand such as rival Foodstuffs had with New World.

Countdown was trying to be all things to all people. "The success of that remains to be seen."

* The $1b overhaul

Progressive Enterprises has 150 Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown supermarkets nationwide.

All the supermarkets are to be rebranded Countdown over five years.

Countdown Westgate is the first to get the new look.

Foodtown Pukekohe, Woolworths Milford and Northwood in Christchurch are next, followed by old style Countdowns Pt Chevalier and Ashburton in South Canterbury.

- NZ Herald

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