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Re-Engineering Retail Under Lockdown

Updated: Apr 21, 2020


Craig Robertson is CEO of Pricewise, a proudly New Zealand owned and operated, health, beauty, and household essentials retailer.

COVID-19's impact internationally hit around the same time that Craig joined the business - creating a massive opportunity. Pricewise is a retailer of household essentials and was able to trade at Alert Level 4 lockdown, but they didn't have a transactional website. Craig provides a first-hand account about his experience and the reality of how you can pull a rabbit out of a hat with hard work, commitment and an incredible team.

What a year the last two weeks have been.

I have never been as challenged or as humbled as I have in the past fortnight since taking on the role as CEO at Pricewise.

Two weeks ago, Pricewise was a “bricks and mortar” based retailer, today it is running from a fully-fledged eCommerce and delivery platform built remotely under lockdown.

For the past five years, Pricewise has been a proudly New Zealand owned and operated business, supplying health, hygiene, and personal care products to Kiwis at affordable prices.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Even though the products Pricewise sell are deemed “Essential”, we put the safety and well-being of our customers and our people first. We decided not to open our retail outlets under COVID-19 Alert Level 4 protocols.

Not having an eCommerce solution was simply not an option. Getting our essential products to our existing customer base and new customers demanded a digital platform – and quickly.

My challenge was to work out how to execute this whilst in lockdown, with a team I have never worked with.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown my newly recruited Head of Marketing and Customer Experience Manager, worked with me to reposition and re-engineer our brand. Remotely we gathered the Logistics, Finance, IT and Merchandise teams to announce our plans to launch a transactional website.  Given we had not worked together before, coupled with the fact that only a few had experience with transactional websites, rightly so, they thought I had rocks in my head.

Barriers aside, we agreed on a target date for go-live and the team collectively identified what their roles were to enable us to achieve this audacious goal.

Under normal circumstances, we would do fast prototyping and testing but in the current environment, this was done in parallel with the development of the site.  

Where there is a will there’s a way and challenges aside, we have now launched our site and by doing this have relaunched the brand nationwide. 

We have been delighted with the feedback from those shopping the site over the past few days and the team tasked with picking and packing orders are excited to be playing their part in this new venture. 

I feel privileged to be part of something very special as we have re-written our business plan and repositioned the business. This will see changes to the way we format our stores, present product and introduce new ranges. 

I mentioned at the start of this post that I’ve been incredibly humbled by this experience.

Humbled by the total support, commitment and can-do attitude of the entire Pricewise team. They banded together, working remotely, implemented contactless delivery protocols alongside safe distance picking and packing for orders to ensure we could take our products to market safely.

eCommerce, click and deliver retailing, can seem a little cold and clinical. But achieving what the Pricewise team have in the past two weeks took guts, determination and heart.

From this humble shop keeper,

Kia kaha New Zealand.

Craig Robertson is CEO of Pricewise.  He is an established executive leader with 20+ years’ experience coaching and developing large national teams.  He led customer-centric sales and service programmes in his various General Management positions across Briscoe Group, NZ Post, Telecom and Noel Leeming.  He reshaped the Red Cross retail network as his way of giving back to the community and over the past two years in his role as CEO headed up Bikes International and their retail chain Bike Barn.

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