The retail sector has met with a barrage of challenges in recent times, from the online threat to a high Aussie dollar to the new consumer conservatism. But for some businesses, the identification of a niche and consumer demand for a product means booming trade.
Caffé Primo, an Australian producer and seller of coffee, has experienced a boon to business from their move into the retail space. Involved in the direct wholesale business for more than 30 years, the company experienced natural growth before managing director Nick Di Stefano saw an opportunity to sell direct to the public.
However, this move wasn’t without its challenges.
“We found [it a] very difficult challenge… to break into the retail market,” says Di Stefano. “We just had to really persist to get anywhere … We’ve finally made a small break in the retail sector in some of the major chain stores and it’s been hard because the larger companies have had a stranglehold on the segment for quite some time.”
Unlike the main competitors such as Vittoria and Lavazza, Di Stefano also saw the opportunity to open a storefront for the brand. This store, located on Sydney’s busy Parramatta Road, houses a coffee roaster and invites patrons to come and see exactly how Primo coffee is made.
“We’ve also taken on the food with the coffee as well, so we do coffee roasting and barista classes, we’re a café, we have a restaurant, a delicatessen, pizzeria, gelatoria, all made onsite, and we also have wholesale distribution. All these elements function at the same time and work in tandem,” he explains.
Open for a little under four months, the outlet has already seen a steady stream of patronage come through its doors.
“It’s all come together and it’s working. At the moment, we’re serving approximately 8000 coffees per week and we’ve had over 25,000 visitors in the last 10 weeks, so it has been a very good acceptance in the marketplace.”
The right brew
The opening of Di Stefano’s Coffee Warehouse wasn’t just a means to break into the retail sector. Di Stefano sees this as a labour of love and a testament to his father.
“The development of the Coffee Warehouse is a celebration of my father’s passion for great coffee with a goal to provide customers with a complete coffee experience that not only educates but excites,” he says. “It’s a homage to my father. I wanted to showcase all the background behind him and his products and his coffee.”
Alongside the opening of Di Stefano’s Coffee Warehouse, the company has also released what Di Stefano sees as a tribute to his father’s passion and love of coffee, the Caffé Di Stefano’s Signature Label, a product his father Giuseppe was so proud of he signed the bag as a personal guarantee.
“Our key advantage is that we’ve taken on this new challenge to develop our new custom Di Stefano signature label,” says Di Stefano. “It’s a more coffee, café-orientated [brand for] real coffee buffs that want fresh products all the time, and want different flavours and want the true quality of the coffee.”
A caffeinated culture
Di Stefano says the change in Australia’s coffee culture in the past five years is what makes businesses such as his possible.
“People are starting to understand a lot more about coffee and what type of coffee is used and what the freshness is,” he says. “They’re very discerning when it comes to coffee. They have a philosophy: that it has to be fresh, to a certain degree, at a certain time.”
Di Stefano gears the warehouse towards three types of customers.
“You’ve got the basic coffee lovers who come in, who like to sit down and take on the whole flavour of anything they’re drinking.
“Then you have the barista group where they’re very, very switched on in their coffee knowledge.
“Then there would be a third type which is the actual owner of a shop … looking for a product that is going to have a point of difference or a quality standard and a back-up of service behind it with training as well.”
The warehouse, he says, is designed to fully cater to every type of customer who comes through the door.
“We want the Coffee Warehouse to be a place where we can share our expertise and years of experience with our customers, and a place where they can try new things, learn the process of making coffee and everything in between.”
And the transparency of the process is what makes it all the more fun for the consumer, inviting them to learn, participate and, most importantly, enjoy.
“We’re roasting in front of you, we’re making coffee in front of you, so there’s nothing hidden. It’s all out there.”