|Headquarters||Auckland, New Zealand|
|Number of locations||164 (January 2013)|
Countdown is a New Zealand full-service supermarket chain, owned by Woolworths Limited. Founded in 1981, Countdown is the flagship brand of Progressive Enterprises, Woolworths' New Zealand supermarket subsidiary, with over 160 supermarkets across New Zealand. It is the largest supermarket chain in New Zealand in terms of number stores.
Although stores vary in size, Countdown stores are normally larger than average (newer supermarkets are around 4,000–4,400 m2 or 43,000–47,000 sq ft) and are able to sell products slightly more cheaply than smaller Foodtown and Woolworths supermarkets.
"New Generation" Countdowns - those that have been built or refurbished since mid-2008 - have 30% of their retail floor space dedicated to fresh foods, a wider range of products than older Countdown stores (up to 30,000 items), and heating and refrigeration systems that are more energy-efficient and sustainable than older Countdown stores.
In May 1981, the first Countdown market opened at Northlands Mall in Papanui, Christchurch. This business was established by Rattrays Wholesale. The Rattrays Wholesale Group included the Rattrays Cash and Carry warehouses, tobacco vans, now known as the Red Arrow Distributors fleet and also included the SuperValue group of franchised supermarkets and now operating as SuperValue/FreshChoice.
In 1992, Foodland Associated Limited (FAL) Australia, purchased the Countdown/Rattrays business. This acquisition was then followed by gaining a majority share holding in Progressive Enterprises Limited, including General Distributors Limited, trading as the Foodtown.
In October 1993, Foodland Associated Limited (FAL) bought the majority shareholding in Progressive Enterprises from Coles Myer and, shortly after, bought all remaining public shares and delisted Progressive from the New Zealand stock exchange. With this purchase, Progressive Enterprises became the parent company for a number of FAL brands. Progressive Enterprises consisted of Foodtown Supermarkets, Countdown, Georgie Pie, Rattrays and Supervalue.
On 17 June 2002, Progressive Enterprises Ltd bought Woolworths (NZ) Ltd from Hong Kong based owners Dairy Farm Group. The sale saw Progressive's supermarket brands Foodtown, Countdown, 3 Guys, SuperValue and FreshChoice joined by Woolworths, Big Fresh and Price Chopper. As a result, PEL increased its share of the NZ grocery market to approximately 45%.
In 2003 Progressive closed its Auckland and Christchurch distribution centers and rehired the redundant workers on lower pay.
During the period of 1993-2005, Countdown changed from a foodmarket type format offering mainly groceries to a "full service discount supermarket". The stores vary in size due to the consolidation of brands after the merger with Woolworths (NZ) Ltd. A number of Big Fresh, Price Chopper and 3 Guys stores were rebranded to Coundown stores during after this merger.
On 24 November 2005, Australian company Woolworths Limited purchased Progressive Enterprises Limited from Foodland Associated Limited.
On 25 August 2006, employees at Countdown's distribution centres went on strike in what was known as the 2006 Progressive Enterprises Dispute. A day later the company locked them out indefinitely. The industrial dispute was resolved on 21 September 2006.
In October 2006, Progressive Enterprises announced a discount fuel scheme with Gull Petroleum and Shell to offer discounts on petrol when shoppers spend $40 or more in their Woolworths, Foodtown or Countdown stores. This scheme was similar to the one their parent company Woolworths Limited offered in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigated  whether this activity was anti-competitive, the result of which was an undertaking by the parent company to change its methods of offering fuel discounts in Australia. Foodstuffs stores in New Zealand also offered fuel discounts at BP and their own New World and Pak'nSave fuel sites.
In July 2008, Onecard, which could previously only be used at Woolworths and Foodtown, was extended to Countdown.
In September 2009, Progressive Enterprises announced it would re-brand all its Foodtown and Woolworths stores to Countdown as stores were refurbished. The final Foodtown and Woolworths to re-brand were Browns Bay and Meadowlands respectively, both on 14 November 2011. A single Woolworths outlet continues to operate at Mount Maunganui's Bayfair Shopping Centre. The store was not rebranded because a Countdown already existed at the centre.
In March 2012, the New Zealand Commerce Commission issued Progressive Enterprises a warning about misleading customers as to the size of a beer discount
On 12 February 2014, Member of Parliament Shane Jones used parliamentary privilege to accuse Progressive Enterprises Ltd, owner of the Countdown chain of extortionary practices. He alleged that the company called suppliers into meetings and demanded payments from them to retrospectively increase the previous year's profit margins. He further alleged that the company threatened not to stock suppliers' products if they discussed the meetings publically or did not make the payments.
On 14 February 2014, the New Zealand Commerce Commission announced that it was assessing alleged anti-competitive behaviour by Countdown towards their suppliers. The Commission promised confidentiality to whistleblowers.
As of January 2013, there are a total of 164 Countdown supermarkets operating throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
Major store operations are handled in Progressive Enterprises's head office in Mangere, Auckland. The stores are divided in between 10 areas. Each area has an Area Manager, and all areas are support by a National Operations Manager. Previously, the areas were split in North and South regions, with 5 areas each.
Pricing and specials are divided into two regions: North Island and South Island. Internally, the North Island region is further subdivided into two sub-divisions: Upper and Lower, which are only used for competition against main competitor Foodstuffs (who have two pricing regions in the North Island).
Countdown also provides New Zealand wide services through its online grocery shop.
All grocery items and general merchandise is supplied to stores through one of three distribution centres: at the head office in Auckland, in Palmerston North, and in Christchurch. Deliveries are made daily to stores.
Chilled and frozen goods are supplied to stores by third party logistics operator Versacold. They operate three distribution centres in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch, and deliver to stores daily.
Produce is supplied to stores by third party Freshmax. Fruit and vegetables from across New Zealand and the world are sent to the three distribution centres in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, where they are shipped to stores daily. However, only certain stores in the Auckland area receive a Sunday delivery.
In recent years, Countdown, as well as Foodtown and Woolworths, have moved away from having on-site butcheries and have moved to centralised facilities. Cabinet Ready Meat (CRM: pre-cut and pre-packed meat) is supplied to non-butchery stores from a central plant in Auckland. Due to the complications of logistics in shipping CRM to the South Island, all South Island Countdowns retain their butcheries.
Countdown's main competitors are Foodstuffs-owned full-service supermarket New World and discount supermarket Pak'n Save.
In terms of pricing, Countdown generally places on par with New World or in between the two. In a September 2009 Consumer magazine survey, Countdown was placed third in Auckland, with a basket of 40 brand items costing $136, four dollars behind New World and $21 behind Pak'n Save. A year earlier in September 2008, a Consumer magazine survey placed Countdown second in Auckland, with a basket of 15 private label items costing $38.24, only $0.91 behind fellow Progressive brand Woolworths (the Woolworths store in question has since become a Countdown), and $1.87 ahead of the nearest rival, Pak'n Save.
Marketing and Branding
The current Countdown branding was introduced on 21 September 2009. The word "Countdown" reused the original logo's red colour, but with a newly adapted font-type. The previous light green background was replaced and a logo with the "Shop Smarter" slogan was added. The logo - representing fresh produce - is also used by Australian Woolworths stores.
On stores, the slogan is missing and the word "Countdown" is white. The logo and name sit on a black background.
"Shop Smarter" - Countdown's current slogan was introduced in mid-2009 to the Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown brands. The new slogan also accompanied the introduction of "The Smart Shopper", a series of 60-second thrice-weekly television segment hosted by Richard Till.
Countdown has two major loyalty schemes, which it shares with both the Woolworths and Foodtown brands.
Countdown uses a discount and rewards programme called Onecard which was introduced in July 2008 after Foodtown and Woolworths stores became rebranded under the Countdown logo. The actual Onecard is a standard magnetic stripe card that is loaded into the POS system via the EFTPOS terminal. Apart from discounts given as "Onecard specials" (only allowed to Onecard holders), whole $10 units spent are used to accumulate points or buying products with Onecard bonus points. Four times a year these points are automatically redeemed for cash vouchers. The Onecard is also used for competitions - entry is automatic when the Onecard is swiped after filling competition conditions (e.g. buying a specific product).
Unlike membership-loyalty schemes in most retail outlets, Countdown's Onecard specials are the predominant visible price on member-discounted products; you have to look closer to see the non-member price, which is typically above the price available at competing supermarkets.
Shell/Z, and Gull petrol stations offer fuel discounts in cooperation with the Countdown supermarket chain for transactions over $40 (from September 2009). These discounts were initially introduced in 2006 and often open to change.
Private Label brands
Countdown has six private label brands - of which all except Signature Range are in common with private label brands of Woolworths Supermarkets Australia.
- Woolworths Home Brand - low-cost everyday grocery items
- Signature Range - everyday grocery items, on par with branded products (previously owned by (FAL) Foodland Associated Limited in Western Australia which operated the Action Supermarkets, Supa Valu and Dewsons.
- Woolworths Select / Signature Range Select - high-end grocery products
- Woolworths Naytura
- Woolworths Freefrom - grocery items for specific dietary requirements
- Woolworths Essentials - general merchandise
- Woolworths Limited
- Progressive Enterprises
- Woolworths Supermarkets Australia
- Big Fresh
- Price Chopper
- "Progressive Enterprises - Our Company - Progressive Enterprises Limited". Retrieved 2010-08-14.
- "New generation Countdown supermarket for Newtown | Progressive Enterprises Limited". Progressive.co.nz. 2009-08-14. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- "New Generation Countdown | Progressive Enterprises Limited". Progressive.co.nz. 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- ACCC. 6 December 2013 http://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/coles-and-woolworths-undertake-to-cease-supermarket-subsidised-fuel-discounts
|url=missing title (help).
- Slade, Maria (21 September 2009). "Supermarkets rebranded in $1b overhaul". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
- "Woolworths". Bayfair Shopping Centre. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- "Countdown". Bayfair Shopping Centre. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- "Commerce Commission warns Progressive Enterprises over misleading sales claims". New Zealand Commerce Commission. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
- "Stuff Business day". Fairfax NZ News. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
- "Countdown Online Shop".
- "Where to find the cheapest groceries". nzherald.co.nz. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
- "Upmarket rivals steal Pak'nSave cheap label". nzherald.co.nz. 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
- "Smart Shopper Launch | Progressive Enterprises Limited". Progressive.co.nz. 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
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