THE CEO of IRAM, the management company of the Julalikari and IBA owned IGA, has thanked the community for its support and patience during the battle to get a relief outlet up and running after children set the premises ablaze on 12 July.
The relief store which is at the back of the BP Complex now has three registers, six stocked aisles and bush orders have resumed.
CEO John Kop has found the unprecedented disaster even more confounding, being stuck in Melbourne, Victoria which is harsh COVID lockdown.
“We have had to build the entire business from the ground up,” said Mr Kop.
“Woolworths lent us shelving and Julalikari helped with storage, temporary fencing of the rear carpark and knocking out a back wall to expand the store.
“Once insurance assessors and engineers had inspected the fire damage, Dexter Barnes Electrical cleaned out and made safe our old site and installed air conditioning at the temporary store.
“We have purchased new upright refrigerators and cash registers, laid out six aisles, added pricing tags and reconnected stock to our computerised systems.
“Fortunately our merchandising, payroll and accounting systems were stored in the ‘cloud’, so our IT team has been busy restoring the system from back-ups.
Mr Kop said government departments helped with a COVID-19 plan and traffic management plan and WorkSafe has visited to inspect both the damaged and temporary new sites.
“Above all, our amazing staff pitched in and rebuilt the store, despite the distress and sense of loss they were feeling,” he said.
“I remain stuck in Melbourne, because of travel restrictions, but IRAM’s Operations Manager Shaun Whisson came up from Perth and spent three weeks working around the clock before going into quarantine back in Perth, separated from his family.
“Local Manager Aaron O’Donnell and the staff have worked tirelessly to get everything back up and running,” he said.
The temporary store now covers almost the full spread of 220 commodities - such as cereal, pasta, canned fish, frozen foods, dairy products previously offered - or about 2,500 items.
“You can still buy frozen peas or cereals, you just won’t have the choice of so many brands,” he said.
The store recently ran a survey of customers to find out what goods should be prioritised.
“In general, our customers could see how hard we had been trying and were full of praise for our staff,” he said.
The main criticism from the survey was of higher prices.
“We are supplied by Metcash, which is supported by a Territory-wide catalogue and weekly specials on about 2,500 lines, based on us stocking 10,000 lines,” Mr Kop said.
“Because we can’t stock the full range we don’t have access to the catalogue or weekly specials. So our shelf price hasn’t changed, it’s just we don’t have the weekly catalogue specials.
“The top priority of IRAM, as retail managers, is to get the best possible prices for our customers. Now we are back up and running properly, we plan to bring our own in store specials soon,” he said.
“One bonus is that the 24-hour BP service station now stocks goods at the same price as the IGA.
“Clearly, we have some challenges ahead. It will take many months to get back to our permanent site.
“We ask for everyone’s continued patience and good will.
“We will continue to do our best for the people of Tennant Creek and keep them informed of progress through the Tennant Times and our Facebook site.”
The Tennant Creek IGA is owned by Julalikari Aboriginal Corporation and Indigenous Business Australia (IBA).
The fire destroyed $866,000 worth of stock and $764,000 worth of plant and equipment, including the store’s server and IT system, chillers, refrigeration, butcher, weighing equipment, price tags, shelving and registers.
The IGA was able to set up at the back of the BP service station and roadhouse relatively quickly because the two businesses are both managed by IBA Retail Asset Management (IRAM) and were able to share systems, a kitchen, sheds, staff and office space.
IRAM has spent the past three weeks sourcing replacement stock and equipment from around Australia, which has proved challenging given COVID-19 travel restrictions.