FoodWorks Loch Sport has been crowned Australian United Retailer’s (AUR) VIC/SA/TAS Express Store of the Year at the 2023 AUR Store Excellence Awards.

Loch Sport FoodWorks is a member of AUR, a network consisting of 560 supermarkets, food and convenience stores spanning every state and territory in Australia.

This award recognises the store and its staff who have gone above and beyond to support the local community with great service and a fantastic fresh food offer.

Matt Edey says he believes the store’s layout is a positive customer experience and helped FoodWorks Loch Sport win the award. Photo: Stefan Bradley.

Loch Sport local Matt Edey owns the store together with his wife Angela Edey. While they were unable to attend the award ceremony in Melbourne, store manager Nicole Stephens went on their behalf.

“When I heard (about the win) I was happy because we’ve done a lot here,” Mr Edey said.

“When you look inside the shop you’ll see that it’s very well laid out. It’s a good customer experience,” Mr Edey said.

After purchasing Foodworks Loch Sport in 2017, the Edeys decided it was too small and built a new shop about 200 square metres bigger, which opened in 2019.

“A lot of credence goes to the owners of the business, but it’s really the staff when you drill it down,” Mr Edey said.

“It’s the staff that do the work and they do a brilliant job here. It’s difficult to get staff (in Loch Sport) … so that’s (our) biggest single issue.”

Ms Stephens agreed.

“Our staff strive for excellence. We get new products in and listen to the customers,” she said.

Mr Edey described Loch Sport as a “quiet little hollow” for much of the year – it’s the long weekends and public holidays when it becomes very busy.

“But then Christmas comes along and it just goes to another level. And you know, we need 12 staff on every day to try and appease all their customers because it’s just busy all day,” he said.

“There are queues all day… three tills going flat out.”

AUR’s award granted to FoodWorks Loch Sport. Photo: Stefan Bradley.

And every single day the store is open, including the recent fires, and even on Christmas Day for a few hours.

“We’re open for about three hours on Christmas Day so the customers that come from Melbourne or other places get here and realise they’ve forgotten something, and that’s what the shop is all about,” Mr Edey said.

Mr Edey describes FoodWorks Loch Sport as the ‘I forgot this’ shop. As a coastal tourist town, many people come to the area for fishing, camping and water sports, but you may not always have what you need. It might be toys for the kids, pre-cooked meals, thongs, a fishing rod or even your toothbrush.

“We do carry a vast range of stock and we actually got nominated for another award which was the general merchandise award which we didn’t win,” he said.

“We’ve increased our range probably four or five fold since we opened.”

Asked about his own increased costs, inflation and the controversy surrounding price hikes at Coles and Woolworths, Mr Edey said he wants to support local people.

L-R: Rick Wight (Chief Executive, Australian United Retailers), Nicole Stephens (Store Manager, FoodWorks Loch Sport) and Robert Markezic (National Operations Manager, Australian United Retailers) at last month’s 2023 AUR Store Excellence Awards in Melbourne. Photo: Contributed.

“We purchase well here. We buy fresh fruit and veg from the Lazzaro brothers. And we tend to buy as much as we can locally because they’re the ones that support you. So if I need a box of lettuce I’ll get it from Sale, I can’t go and get it from Melbourne,” he said.

“You’ve got to weigh up in this business – FoodWorks Loch Sport is not easy to run. You’re 64 kilometres from the nearest town. No-one wants to come out here because it’s always costing them freight … or it’s an hour’s travel (for labourers).”

Mr Edey said they will be implementing a price match promise in the near future to stay competitive with the supermarkets in the area to give locals more reasons to shop there. He hopes that will lead to fewer people travelling to Sale to do their shopping.