David Singer retires from Coalface Consulting

David Singer retires from Coalface Consulting

David Singer has spent more than 30 years working in the convenience and grocery industries. He came to New Zealand from South Africa in 1985 and began working for Coca-Cola and servicing the oil companies. He later went on to help the former Caltex to develop its retail strategy.

It was during this time that he came up with a business idea that would go on to become the leading provider of market research in the retail sector in New Zealand, Coalface Consulting.

Founded in 1997, Coalface Consulting provides unique insights into the effectiveness of business relationships within New Zealand’s competitive FMCG space. It has become an essential service for suppliers and retailers alike.

After more than 24 years of successfully leading the business, Singer has announced his retirement and passed the baton to a new generation of leader, Geoff Smith.

“I’ve been working in and around the convenience industry for more than 30 years. I was at Coca-Cola for about seven years and then after that I did some consulting work for the old Caltex in helping them set up a retail programme,” reminisces Singer.

“It was actually at this time that the idea for Coalface Consulting came. I was speaking with one of my contacts who’d had a bad experience with one of his dealers, and I said to him that he can’t base his whole opinion off this one experience.

“I said I could prove this to him with a proper survey, and so we started conducting these surveys asking the service station owners or operators if they were happy with the service they were getting at the coalface – and that’s how the business began.”

It’s impressive to hear that when Singer first began conducting these Coalface surveys, it was all done on paper and mailed out via the post.

“The concept was to get a read on the performance and quality of service from suppliers in-store and deliver this message back to the head office. It gave them a way to get a read on their performance against all other suppliers across different categories. And then we can even break it down by region and get even more granulated detail.

“The work we do has become a very important source of information to give people a read on their performance on an ongoing basis. It’s peace of mind and a good way to keep track of how everybody’s performing and allows them to address any problems that are identified.

“Lots of people use it differently but at the end of the day Coalface is a reliable and independent measure that both retailers and suppliers can trust.”

Singer highlights that there have been many changes to the industry over the past 30 years, particularly in relation to the retail model at service stations.

“It’s hard to believe that when I first became involved you could not buy a coffee at a convenience store!

“It really has been remarkable to watch the growth of coffee since the turn of the year 2000. For a new category to grow so exponentially and to watch how the different retail groups have developed and driven their individual coffee programmes. It’s just unbelievable.

“But the growth of food-to-go to me has been the biggest change and I look forward to continuing to watch that evolve.”

Now that he’s retired, Singer is looking forward to spending time with his family and heading to Melbourne, Australia, to visit with his daughter and newly arrived granddaughter – as soon as he is able to do so.

We wish him all the very best in his retirement and thank him for his service to the wider FMCG industry over the past 30 years.

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