Countdown has opened its new Palmerston North Distribution Centre three weeks ahead of schedule, to help manage the increased demand across its supermarket network with stock being sent to stores from the new facility from today.
The $100 million Distribution Centre (DC) is as big as four rugby fields at 38,000sqm, and is three times the size of Countdown’s old facility in Palmerston North. An eight-week transition period was originally planned for the new state-of-the-art centre, but with the country continuing in lockdown, Countdown has sped up this transition to help relieve some of the pressure in the North Island particularly.
In the last week Countdown has sent just under 3.5 million cartons of food and groceries to its stores around the country, including an extra 100,000 crates of fresh fruit and vegetables – an increase of 25 per cent vs the week prior.
More than 20,000 online shopping orders have been delivered to Priority Assistance customers since lockdown started, and a further 4500 customers added to Countdown’s online Priority Assistance service.
Sally Copland, Countdown’s Director of CountdownX, the business’ eCommerce arm says Alert Level 4 across Aotearoa has put the entire supermarket network under extreme pressure but the new Distribution Centre is a purposeful investment to help with spikes like that currently being experienced, and also to future-proof Countdown’s distribution network for population growth and increased customer demand.
“We have just over 1000 people working across our four distribution centres who this week have supported our stores and customers with nearly 3.5 million cartons of food and groceries while working under strict COVID-19 safety protocols and dealing with the impact of team members who are isolating at home. Our Auckland Distribution Centres in particular are dealing with incredible demand, and by opening Palmerston North early we’ll be able to relieve some of that pressure and better service customers around the North Island during these unusual times,” says Copland.
“Thanks to our Palmerston North team, our supply partners and our transport carriers all pulling together, we can start sending stock to stores from today.”
With Kiwis heeding the government’s call to stay home, and more than 10,000 contacts in locations of interest, Countdown’s online shopping services have also seen intense pressure over the last week.
“Usually around 12% of our sales are online, which in itself is world-leading for an online grocery business, however this week we have seen more people than ever trying to shop online and it’s fair to say that’s been extremely challenging. You can have all the technology and innovation in the world, but fundamentally people are at the heart of online shopping too,” says Copland.
“In the March 2020 lockdown we quickly set up a Priority Assistance service for older New Zealanders, people who are vulnerable to COVID-19, and people who are doing the right thing and isolating at home. We already had over 120,000 people signed up for this service, and this lockdown we’ve registered a further 5000 Kiwis. There’s still huge demand for slots and deliveries, but we are doing everything we can to make sure these are freed up for the people who need online shopping the most,” says Copland.
Facts and figures about Countdown’s new Palmerston North Distribution Centre:
• 200 team members, including 70 new team members.
• By the end of September, it will deliver to 55 stores across the North Island, and when fully operational, will move approximately 450,000 cartons of food and groceries each week – nearly double the current Palmerston North DC volume.
• The new Distribution Centre is Countdown’s first to be accredited by Green Star, an internationally-recognised sustainability rating system for the design, construction and operation of buildings, fitouts and communities. The new facility has sustainability firmly at the heart of its construction and design with energy efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting and low water and energy use fittings.
• Countdown’s new Palmerston North Distribution Centre is also Countdown’s first to have 100 per cent electric manual handling equipment.
• LED lighting which is 35% more efficient than traditional lighting
• Water-saving taps to reduce water use
• An Energy Management System, which provides regular updates on store energy and water use
• Dedicated EV car parks and EV chargers for the team
• Rainwater storage tanks to cut down on mains water consumption
• On-site physiotherapist for the team
• Plenty of bike parks along with showers on site to encourage team to choose alternative transport
• Dedicated prayer room for the team
By the numbers: Countdown in lockdown
• More than 1100 team at four Distribution Centres are sending over 400,000 cartons of food to stores every day.
• 3.5 million cartons of food were sent to stores in the last week.
• 400,000 cartons of fresh fruit and veges sent to stores in the last week.
• Countdown has also purchased an extra:
o 285 tonnes of potatoes
o 105 tonnes of carrots
o 105 tonnes of onions
o 75 tonnes of kumara
o 120,000 bags of salads
o 350,000 avocados
• Over 20,000 online shopping orders delivered to Priority Assistance customers
• 5000 more customers added to Priority Assistance