Frontline heroes series part 2: Supermarket superstars

Frontline heroes series: Supermarket superstars

Keeping shelves stocked is just one of the challenges supermarket staff across the Moreton Bay Region have become accustomed to in the past two years.

With supply chains hit by COVID-19 restrictions and staff absence due to illness, it’s taken some creative thinking on the part of smaller stores – and the commitment of their dedicated teams – to ensure we have access to the necessities.

Here, we salute some of the region’s supermarket superstars

Everfresh Food Market manager Carlos Lakerdis

By Kylie Knight

Carlos Lakerdis has worked in supermarkets since 1984, trading in the aftermath of cyclones and the 2011 floods, but he says trading during the COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike any natural disaster.

The manager of Everfresh Food Market at Mango Hill’s Capestone Village says it’s been a challenging two years, with stock and staff shortages across the industry.

His team has had to adapt quickly since opening the store in October, but the latest outbreak has presented opportunities.

“Because it hit the majors first, when they ran out (of stock) people came to us,” Carlos says.

While some categories have been heavily affected, the team has managed to get stock in because they work with a broader network of local suppliers.

Having butchers instore has also helped ensure there has been meat available for customers.

Carlos was working at a store at Murrumba Downs in the early stages of the pandemic, when it was discovered two customers had been there while infectious.

He says managing that was tougher than the present outbreak because isolation rules were different and people were out of action for 14 days.

“I lost 35 team members in two days. That was more than a third of my team including the entire management team,” he says.

When Moreton Daily News spoke to Carlos, he said about 10 percent of his team either had COVID-19 or were waiting on results.

“Retail workers are not unsung heroes when you compare us to healthcare workers, but we kind of are.

“People don’t think of retail workers being on the frontline, but we really are.

“It’s amazing more of our team hasn’t come down with COVID. They’re not unprotected, but they’re very vulnerable,” Carlos says.

The work his team does is vital in providing customers with essential food and products.

“We’re not doing extra-long hours, but we have adjusted our lives to be available on a seven-day roster, essentially,” he says.

This is to manage staff absences and to be on call, when stock arrives.

He says all team members are coming in when asked.

“They’re doing it because they want to be that team that does it for the customer,” Carlos explains.

“They’re coping pretty well. The stressful part for a few of them is when customers come in and refuse to wear masks or get narky when we ask them to.

“Staff are not wanting to go home with COVID that they could pass on to their family or friends.

“We ask for patience from customers. That’s all we can ask for. We’re endeavouring to get the shop full and keep it full.”

Carlos says stock levels will return to normal once staff absences across the board stabilise – suppliers, distribution centres and at a local store level.

But he’s confident many of the customers they have gained at the Mango Hill store in recent weeks will remain regulars long after supply chain issues are solved at major supermarkets.

Drakes Pumicestone store manager Paul Graham

By Ashleigh Howarth

Late stock deliveries due to supply issues have meant staff from Drakes Pumicestone are working extra hours to ensure their shelves are filled.

With COVID cases rising and many supermarket shelves stripped bare, store manager Paul Graham has praised his staff for “going above and beyond” to ensure they can continue meeting the needs of their local community.

“We’re all facing the same challenges when it comes to getting stock,” he says.

“Most of our deliveries are two days behind because the stock suppliers are also having COVID go through their production facilities.

“Things can also change pretty quickly every day. We might have a truck that is due to arrive at 2pm, but then we get a message to say it won’t be arriving until the next morning, so I then have to go and phone everyone and change all their rosters.

“My team has been amazing through all of these challenges, and for that I want to say a big thank you to them for going above and beyond to keep the store going.

“A lot of my staff have gone from working 10-15 hours a week up to 38 hours, and in some cases, even more.”

While some products may take longer to arrive, Paul says his customers are very understanding.

“I’ve had a lot of compliments from customers about how good the shop looks compared to Coles and Woolworths, which is great to hear because it gives us a real boost,” he says.

“We are also seeing lots of new faces come through the door.”

IGA Cashmere store manager Jess Stone

By Ashleigh Howarth

At a time when there are food shortages and customers are panic buying, one supermarket manager is going above and beyond to ensure her customers can still fill their trolley.

IGA Cashmere store manager Jess Stone has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic with suppliers and staff to ensure shelves, fridges and freezers remain full.

“We haven’t experienced panic buying this time around like we did last year, and that’s because our customers understand some items are in short supply, so they’re only taking what they need and leaving the rest for other people,” Jess says.

“We have also been able to fill our shelves pretty quickly and that’s because of the help we receive from our suppliers, who send out their territory managers to help.”

While some retail workers have been abused by frustrated customers in recent weeks, Jess says that’s not been the case with her store.

“Throughout it all our customers have remained polite, respectful and friendly to me and my staff,” she says.

“To them I want to say thank you for supporting our family-owned business throughout the last two years.

“We employ a lot of young adults who are just starting work for the first time, and we have been able to keep them working because of your support.

“But it’s not just us that has benefited. Other stores in our complex, like the cafe, bakery and pharmacy have also seen an increase in people shopping local, which is great to see.”

Do you know a frontline hero we should feature?

Email editor@moretondaily.com.au and tell us who they are, what they have done and how we can contact them.

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