The Theatre of Retail
An amazing fact we here at The Fold discovered in doing this interview, is that there are not 1 but 3 Facebook pages dedicated to finding great Pineapple Jam. Not to be confused with "The Pineapple Jam", the band!! And it is that nostalgia for the jams and spreads Granny used to make that has kept Mrs Oldbucks on shelves for over 40 years.
Smart sales and marketers know that the easiest way to promote a brand or a business is to tell the story you have, really well. Carol Brown, the new brand custodian who recently purchased Mrs Oldbucks Pantry in Berrima, understands this only too well, recognizing the value in the heritage. So, getting the story right is exactly her focus.
So where does this experience hail from? Carol has been in retail since she was 14 and her love of this career began in the China Department of David Jones. Then after being a full time carer for 8 years she set up the Good Guys in Mittagong followed by a role at Harris Farm in Bowral and it was here she really found her true calling, supporting local.
3 years ago, Harris Farm Bowral got a makeover and Carol was an integral part of the team that used this opportunity to bring the #lovelocal concept to life that had being trialed in other stores in the highly successful retail chain. There were a few key differences in the Highlands, namely the radius and area we considered local. If you apply the 100km model the #lovelocal section would have included Sydney produce and as we all know, that’s not our definition of local, so they got creative.
Carol and the management team drew up a catchment area that stretched from Camden to Goulburn, out to Cowra and down to Wollongong and started sourcing products that would offer their customers an insight into the diversity of regional producers in the area. They engaged a stylist to bring it to life and a new direction of Harris Farm in the Highlands began. It has been a huge success and other brands like IGA who have similar policy get loyal local custom as a result of supporting local business.
And that is the key driver for Carol; she wants to enjoy her customers, find out what they want and keep it simple. And yes, that was Carol in the village on Australia Day in her full Mrs Oldbucks costume walking through the more than 2000 strong crowd. “Retail is all about theatre…so I create theatre. Expect to see Mrs Oldbucks come out for special days like Mother’s Day, Christmas and the like. I have been connected to this brand since I was a child and now my role is to offer an experience for new customers to also engage with this wonderful quality product range.”
That is not to say that changes are not part of the Berrima store's future, but not at the expense of the existing customer. Carol’s vision is clear:
‘The core of the business will stay the same as a heritage brand – jams, chutneys, pickles, old bucks furniture polish etc will continue to be produced with the timeless recipes and sold. And Mumma Brown at Oldbucks is staying too, as some of the best sellers are the premium products like spicy rhubarb chutney and brandied black cherries. I am however, bringing the brand into 2018. We have uncluttered the store, added on trend value extras and by July our upgraded social media, website and online store will be complete.’
Shopping is a life skill at The Fold so we went instore to see exactly what those added extras looked like and were not disappointed. From the Gold products, right through to the newly developed range of Highland Teas, there is a lot more than jams on the shelves in this Berrima mainstay shop. Carol brought in a tea blender to create mixes like Highlands Mist or Berrima Beauty and we are delighted that Oldbucks Billy Tea is on the way.
“No amazon, no bright lights…I am 55 not 25….I just want to keep it local, manageable and enjoy the process and brand. For me community engagement is talking to my customers. I want to know my customers by name, some of whom I may only see once a year and whilst Amazon is great for big brands it’s not in Mrs Oldbucks future.
“You have to love what you do as running a small business is very difficult but also really rewarding. I do not want to sacrifice the joy of village life and chatting to the diverse people walking in and out of our door. That is the fun of it, talking to a group of women down in the Highlands for a girls getaway weekend and reveling in the joy of shopping. Recalling stories of the jams Grandma used to make as its that food connection and memory that has provided the fuel to keep Mrs Oldbucks going for 4 decades.”
“This brand has survived 40 years and seen everything from the GFC, war in the Middle East to the Berrima By Pass. Now its my turn to keep offering the comfort food of our past and present so these great Mrs Oldbucks recipes are still accessible. Everything that is old is new again from Dunlop Volleys to buying food direct from the farm. I love the challenge ahead of keeping this great brand in the ongoing Australian food conversation.”
We could not be more delighted either that Carol is breathing new life into such a valued part of Berrima history.
* note from the editor *
We've just learned that Carol has selflessly joined in The Stars of The Highlands 2018, fundraising for much-needed funds to find a cure for cancer. We encourage you to jump online and show your support for Carol as she learns her new dance routines!