The changing face of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic saw many local businesses raising the bar in service and their commitment to looking after the community.
The Lennox Head IGA got on board from day one making sure that locals who couldn’t come in to the shop got the groceries they needed.
Store manager Rachel O’Connor said the team perfected it over time communicating with customers in person, via social media and local Facebook groups. ‘We have a large contingency of over 60s and our delivery was free to Lennox Head and Skennars Head residents. We started a same-day delivery service, 7 days a week.
‘Having a chat and delivering to our “Oldies” was fun, and shopping for someone else is different to what we are used to doing, so all the team were keen to do the job. I wanted to look after other people’s parents and grandparents here the same way I hoped others would look after my own Nan in Cronulla. We also wanted to check in to make sure they were okay as some of our older customers were isolated on their own for a while – deliveries can take a little longer, but we are okay with that!’
Home deliveries important for elders
Lennox Heads residents Kaye and Paul are in their 70s and before the lockdown they used IGA as a go-to store for their immediate needs.
Home deliveries were very important to them.
‘When the lockdown commenced we felt uncomfortable going to the big supermarkets,’ said Kaye.
Kaye says Rachel immediately established a regime that catered for the safety of the customers. ‘Rachel made us aware that the Lennox IGA was providing deliveries and we availed ourselves of this service. Initially, we had our groceries delivered weekly and we were able to avoid the store.
‘What was good about being in Lennox during the lockdown was the village was able to look after its own and it gave us the opportunity to support the local businesses.
‘Rachel provided a real hands-on service and the staff also reacted positively to the significant change in the way we shop. We appreciate the friendly service in-store and with the deliveries.
‘Rachel also managed the rationing of essentials so that everyone was able to be catered for at a time of panic buying. When our deliveries were made there was time for a personal chat and checking if we were ok and that interaction was welcomed during the lockdown.
‘As the restrictions have eased we now visit the store for immediate needs and get our bulk order every 10 days or so. We will continue to use IGA deliveries for our main needs.’
Seven days a week for two months
Ms O’Connor said the 7-days deliveries went for two months and have now dropped back to 5 days a week. ‘Our deliveries are for everyone. We never at any stage limited who could get delivery. We are here for all of Lennox Head.’
Ms O’Connor said the elderly customers would call and staff would talk them through their orders with the IGA catalogue. ‘We maintained our catalogue the entire way through the last three months to ensure our customers could get the best prices. For the last five weeks we have put on in-store “Locals Supporting Locals” specials to help those on an ever-tightening budget, and for a while I became the “Toilet Paper Lady” – it became a thing and to make sure no one missed out, so we ran a list and called everyone to pick up on delivery days! No local went without loo paper on our watch!’
The IGA ‘Door Man’
Another innovation in the store was a concierge, someone to make sure all customers had a safe and enjoyable shopping experience. Nathan Lewis became a new staff member. ‘He was our “Door Man”. He is on a working visa from England and when the pub closed he was not eligible for JobKeeper, so we made sure we had him covered. He became famous for his repertoire as concierge.’
Ms O’Connor says the Lennox Head customers have been really nice, respectful and have treated all of the IGA team well. ‘They have also been more patient than they have ever been in the past, but I think COVID-19 has had that effect on slowing people down in their daily routine.’
Ms O’Connor said for the last three months Lennox Head IGA has been able to keep their store full thanks to the wealth of local produce and products in the northern rivers. ‘As an Independent supermarket, we are able to source from anyone at any time making us nimble to the needs of the customer while maintaining a high standard of fresh local produce.
IGA shopper Glenda is in her 70s and said before COVID-19 she had only shopped at IGA Lennox Head occasionally. ‘When deliveries stopped at the bigger supermarkets I contacted IGA Lennox Head to check if they delivered – and they did. So from the beginning of the isolation period to this day, I have been getting deliveries from them just about every week.
Couldn’t have done without home deliveries
Glenda said that without the service she doesn’t know what she would have done to get groceries. ‘They were extremely helpful and very friendly and would ring each time with queries re my order, which I emailed to them each week. They always let me know if a product was unavailable for if a product was expensive at the time and therefore if I still required the delivery of that product.
Glenda said the staff were really friendly and polite both on the phone and those who did the deliveries. ‘I can’t say enough good things about the service I received – I have been extremely grateful.’
Overwhelmed with positive feedback
Ms O’Connor says staff have been overwhelmed with positive feedback and responses. ‘Our customers were continually dropping off morning tea, cakes and boxes of chocolate for the team during the height of isolation to say “thank-you” and say they are shopping only in our store because they feel safe.
Kaye said she thinks that the Lennox Head community became pretty well self-contained during the lockdown which was of great benefit for their age group. ‘This has definately changed our shopping behaviour,’ said Kaye. ‘This lockdown has encouraged us to support our Lennox community and in return IGA in particular has provided us with a personalised service that we value.’
Ms O’Connor said that lockdown has taught her that an independent supermarket, like Lennox Head IGA, can adapt to the changing needs of the business and customer needs. ‘Also that we need to support local, not just Aussie but local to where you live to ensure our towns can support themselves in a crisis. We are so lucky to have so much around us and COVID-19 has taught everyone that local, Local, LOCAL is so important to support and grow.’