Foodtown, Woolworths NZ brands to be phased out

Progressive Enterprises is to phase out its Foodtown and Woolworths brands during the next five years, replacing them with a "new generation" Countdown branding.

Progressive managing director Peter Smith said the Countdown brand was chosen, rather than Foodtown or Woolworths, due to its popularity with customers and its geographical spread across the country.

Foodtown was mostly restricted to Auckland, and Woolworths was basically the South Island and lower North Island, while Countdown stores were across the country, he said.

The new Countdown branding would be applied as stores were refurbished and new stores were built.

Australian parent company Woolworths planned to invest up to $1 billion in New Zealand during the next five years.

"We plan to open up to five new generation Countdown supermarkets and transform around 20 Woolworths, Foodtown and older Countdown stores to the new brand and format each year for the next five years," Mr Smith said.

The new branding was unveiled today at Progressive's Countdown Westgate store in West Auckland, where refurbishment was nearly finished.

Mr Smith said a new logo, which also replaced the current Countdown identity, represented fresh produce and the company's commitment to fresh food.

"It also represents a new beginning and direction of our business."

The new brand linked Progressive to Woolworths in Australia, where stores had also been gradually receiving new symbols.

Through its investment, Progressive would create 2000 to 3000 permanent new jobs. It employed more than 18,000 people now.

The chain had increased the space for fresh food, particularly produce. In some cases quadrupling the fresh produce area, Mr Smith said.

"That's what customers were asking for. They said, `look we don't mind your stores but we actually want more fruit and veg, we want more range in deli, we want more range in cheese."

Price was also a significant issue, but customers did not just shop on price alone.

Factors such as range, value, service, and convenience as well as price all worked together, he said.

In three or four places where two group supermarkets were close to each other, the issue would be dealt with on a store by store basis.

"But we're certainly not planning to close any stores, and we're certainly not planning to downsize any of them either."