Gull swoops on Night 'n Day alliance
South Island convenience grocery chain Night 'n Day has nearly doubled in size in just a few months, opening 21 new outlets in the North Island.
The family-owned company has partnered with Gull, displacing Woolworths at 21 of that company's largest service stations, taking its nationwide store count to 49.
Gull general manager Dave Bodger approached Night 'n Day (ND) to replace Woolworths after hearing ND director Andrew Lane speak at a conference.
"I was very impressed by what I heard. Like Gull, Night 'n Day is a family-owned company that has the freedom to manage its stores in a way that suits local motorists and shoppers," said Bodger.
A 10-year contract with Woolworths was also drawing to a close at the time.
The last of the 21 new stores opened in Kingsland (Auckland) last week after a lightning transition to the new brand and retail strategy.
That includes fresh coffee replacing push-button coffee machines, a scoop icecream parlour (with milkshakes), deli and bakery items, as well as the traditional drinks, confectionery, pies, magazines and automotive products, said Lane.
He said ND's scoop icecream offering is unique in the service station industry.
ND operates a franchise model, but currently has mostly employee managers in place, due to the rapid pace of the rollout.
The North Island network will now follow the South Island stores, and move towards having owner-manager franchisees in place. Seven are already franchised.
ND director Denise Lane, David's wife, said staffing at the outlets would increase by more than 30%.
But the relationship with Woolworths remains strong on at least one front – Countdown is still Gull's partner in offering fuel discount coupons to its supermarket customers.
Bodger said the franchise model was one of the big attractions offered by ND, as owners have an ability to build their own businesses, and that improves the customer experience. It also aligns more closely with Gull's strategy than Woolworths' employee manager model, he said.
Around 15% of the former staff came over to the new business, Lane said, with most of the rest being redeployed within Woolworths' other operations. That led to a huge recruitment drive, with over 2500 people interviewed to fill existing and new vacancies.
Lane said that when the first South Island franchises were rolled out in 1990, both profitability and turnover improved.
Bodger said Gull's moves are not a reaction to changes at rival Shell, which has recently rebranded as Z. Both changes have been in train for months. However, Gull and ND would have a broader grocery offering, he said.
The Lanes opened their first store in 1983 and their second in 1985. ND currently has three stores closed inside Christchurch's red zone.
Lane said learning the ropes of fuel retailing was a challenge.
"We have had to upskill ourselves, our franchisees and their employees on all aspects of health and safety standards relating to the fuel industry to ensure the people that provide our service are fully competent, trained, meet certifying standards and provide a superior service."
Gull NZ is an independent operator founded in 1998. It now has over 40 branded sites, all in the North Island.
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