Changing face of retailing

Derek Cornett receives his Retailer of the Year award from Eddie McGuire in 2010. Mr Cornett has been in the retail business for 68 years.
Derek Cornett receives his Retailer of the Year award from Eddie McGuire in 2010. Mr Cornett has been in the retail business for 68 years. Contributed

CORNETT'S IGA owner Derek Cornett says he likes to boast he has been in the retail business for 68 years.

Mr Cornett, who now owns 48 stores, including four in Bundaberg, says he started out at the age of five selling firewood during the Second World War.

"I would buy a barrow load of timber, wheel it home and sell it to the neighbours for a handsome profit," he said.

"I got it for a sixpence and sold it for a shilling."

Mr Cornett migrated from England to Australia in 1963, and after some years of working for other people opened his own store at Kippa Ring in 1975.

Three years later he opened a store on Bribie Island, which in 1984 became the first in Queensland to introduce scanning technology.

Cornett's became a pioneer member of IGA in 1998, which Mr Cornett said turned out to be a great move.

Mr Cornett said his 48 stores gave them bulk buying power and the ability to introduce "own brand" staples, such as bread and milk.

At one time, they opened their own fresh produce distribution centre in the Brisbane Markets, which is now run in conjunction with IGA in a climate-controlled distribution centre.

Mr Cornett said he had seen many changes since starting in the retail business.

"The biggest change is that 30 years ago we would advertise half a dozen products then watch them fly out of the store," he said.

"Today there are 3000 lines, and you never see a mad rush of people coming in full of enthusiasm."

Mr Cornett said rather than the cost of living going up, people's expectations had gone up.

"Years ago you didn't have disposable nappies, but now people are prepared to spend $40 or $50 a week on them."

Mr Cornett said 30 years ago there was one independent supermarket in Bundaberg.

Despite being in his 70s, he said he had no plans to retire.

Topics:  bundaberg business retail

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