Tuesday, 23 April 2024 09:55

Small, nimble and local

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Ruralco Chair, Sir David Carter (centre) and CEO, Tony Aitken (right) meeting with locals (from left), Rico and Colin Weaver at this year’s Mayfield A & P Show. Ruralco Chair, Sir David Carter (centre) and CEO, Tony Aitken (right) meeting with locals (from left), Rico and Colin Weaver at this year’s Mayfield A & P Show.

Stay local. That's the message Canterbury rural trader Ruralco received from its 3000 shareholders.

And chief executive Tony Aitken, who took up the role in November last year, says the co-operative has decided to do just that.

With three retail stores, in Ashburton, Methven and Rakaia, Aitken says the co-op's new strategy is a swith back to its original intent to make farming life easier for its shareholders.

"Most of our shareholders have been with us since we started 60 years ago," he told Rural News.

"So, we have a very loyal shareholder base, and the feedback they've been giving is that we own you and you serve us very well, then why should we be looking at expanding into Taranaki and Southland."

About two years ago, Ruralco launched a new credit card that could be used at over 3,000 merchants around the country. Under the new strategu, Ruralco won't be seeking credit card customers nationwide.

Aitken says while the new strategy won't affect staff numbers, the company has reduced its headcount over the past 12 months.

He says the new strategy has the full support of shareholders and merchant partners.

"Our purpose is to keep local farmers thriving for generations to come, by offering real value with the latest innovation in farm supplies, services, and expert advice. Mid Canterbury is at the heart of our homeland, so it is logical we retain our focus locally," says Aitken.

"We are very fortunate to have such a loyal and parochial support base. Our size and local focus gives us opportunities that many companies do not have - that is to be very connected and responsive to our shareholders. We are small, nimble, and local."

The co-operative will also support its local farmers, services and suppliers wherever possible.

"We recognise we are all in this together and as your co-operative, we are committed to demonstrating that loyalty. We want to strengthen that connection and to make farming easier for our farmers."

Over the coming months, Ruralco is rolling out new initiatives which highlight this renewed local focus. These include Ruralco initiated local farmer reference group meetings to identify how best to support farming communities.

There will also be exclusive shareholder and merchant networking events which inform and encourage collaboration. A "Spend for Your School" monthly promotion has also been launched which allows locals to win $500 for their primary school by using their Ruralco card.

Ruralco chair and former politician Sir David Carter says Ruralco’s new strategy is a change of direction from its previous national growth strategy, which was well intentioned in a very different market environment.

“The decision to consolidate our focus and return to our original vision followed consideration by the board and Ruralco’s executive.”

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