Supermarket eyes Southfresh bid

Foodstuffs Wellington is considering buying failed online fish trader Southfresh.

Foodstuffs Wellington is considering buying failed online fish trader Southfresh.

The supermarket chain’s retail general manager, Graham Douglass, says picking up Southfresh is a possibility as the company pursues other B2B e-commerce plans with Foodstuffs South Island and Foodstuffs Auckland.

If that doesn’t eventuate, the closure of Southfresh will send the company “back to square one” in dealings with seafood suppliers.

The system allowed suppliers to input product availability details into a dynamic database, a valuable capability for commodities subject to seasonal supply variations.

“It opened up supply options for suppliers that might not have had access to our business,” Douglass says.

He isn’t prepared to say what the company, which has about 150 outlets in the lower North Island, would pay for Southfresh. Southfresh’s founder says the company’s Varenti trading software cost more than $1 million to develop.

Foodstuffs Wellington is a separate entity from Foodstuffs South Island and Foodstuffs Auckland but the three are working together on creating an exchange for their suppliers.

Foodstuffs Wellington IT manager Egon Guttke says a pilot of the exchange is not far from going live. It is being developed and hosted by a company he’s not prepared to name.

“It’s not a multimillion-dollar project as far as external spending is concerned. The important point for us is that all three Foodstuffs will deal with our suppliers in the same way.”

Work is continuing on getting the company’s systems ready to work with the exchange, Guttke says, which will handle all purchase orders.

Douglass says a decision on Southfresh will depend on how it fits in with the exchange plans. Those intricacies are being studied, and he’d like to “get some discussions going” with Southfresh this week.

“Purely and simply that will involve reviewing the software with our technical people and their technical people.”

Douglass isn’t deterred from moving towards e-commerce by Southfresh’s failure.

“There’s no doubt e-commerce is the way of the future but all parties need to see the value.”

Another organisation feeling the fallout of Southfresh’s demise is Waikato University’s management school. Southfresh makes its software available to about 50 students as part of a course that teaches entrepreneurship.

Management school head Mike Pratt says students have guaranteed access to the software for as long as they need it. He says there’s some irony in the fact that a company providing software used to teach budding entrepreneurs is shutting up shop.

“Often there’s more to be learnt from things that go wrong than those that go right,” Pratt says.

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