Unfortunately, much of the history of the Auckland Retail Fruiterers Association has been lost, probably forever. Records go back only to 1943, when the Association was incorporated and so that is the date we have taken for our birthday.
But the organization had already been in existence in some form before that, and minutes taken then make no record of the birth of the organization, the issues or personalities which finally provided the impetus to draw retailers under one umbrella to find greater strength in unity.
The Master Fruiterer of August 1950 (Vol 1, No 2), however, records the retirement presentation by the committee to a Mr J Kunac, who had been in business in Auckland for the last 25 years, and a member of the committee for the past 18 years.
In his farewell speech, Mr Kunac “urged all members to work for the common good of the trade, and to keep the Association strong as he could well remember the time when there was no Association and the haphazard methods of business and price cutting were definately against the interests of the individual fruiterer.“
Perhaps that gives us some clue as to the origins of the Association. But whatever the nature of our beginnings, the last half-century has seen the Association taking up many issues on behalf of its members, liasing with other industry groups, and meeting the challenges presented by an ever-changing retail environment.
Today, in the 1990s. retailers are feeling the pinch perhaps more than they have since the 1930s: changes to the shop trading regulations, coupled with an extremely competitive environment brought on by the proliferations of supermarkets and fruit barrows and a generally recessed economy, have meant that most fruit retailers now have to open their shops seven days a week. This, of course, puts an enormous stress on family life and personal health.
The Association continues, in particular, to attack the flea markets, roadside stalls and itinerant traders which operate with so many unfair advantages to take business away from our members. To do this, we mainly work through local councils and community boards.
Much of our current work is in the area of public relation, improving the product knowledge of our members, and improving the publics knowledge of the health aspects of fruit and vegetables.
To maintain a competitive edge, we have gone offshore for information, joining Australia`s United Fresh to get first-hand knowledge of overseas trends and marketing techniques.
We have been very impressed with the of the “Five a Day“ campaign waged in the United States where it enjoyed heavy government involvement. That campaign – which encourages people to eat five healthy s fresh fruit and vegetables a day – is also being instigated by Australia`s United Fresh, and they have so far managed to secure a small government subsidy.
We plan a similar campaign here and we will be trying to encourage government involvement.
In the meantime, we remain involved with the Auckland Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Promotions Committee, together with grower and merchant representatives. Every item sold at the markets brings a 2c levy for the purpose of this promotional work. Our current campaign is radio advertising to “Have a fruit and vege a day“ – a catchy format promoting the sale of produce which is in cheap and plentiful supply.
Radio is the ideal medium for our sector as its possible to devise advertisements at short notice depending on what`s available, or to pull a pre-advertisement and substitute something else if a disaster occurs and a line of produce is not ready in time.
The last year has been particularly important in the life of the association: since we left Retailers Federation we have virtually started again. We are in an embryo state, trying to get the Assocation into a strong position to carry on into the future and we are full of optimism that at last our productive capacities will be fully realised.
In line with this change, we have for the first time employed an executive officer to undertake educative work among our members. He is Ash Jeram, a chartered accountant with many years of experience in the fruit and vegetable industry – an ideal combination of skills.
The Association continues its fundraising work for teenagers with cancer – we have raised $15,000 for Canteen in the past year.
The change in the early 1970s in the way we collect our operating funds – from subscription to a market levy – had a huge impact on the efficiency of our operation. (Currently we are funded by a 10c levy on each case of tomatoes sold through the markets).
All in all, the scene is now well set for us to successfully tackle the next 50 years. The challenges are many, but there will always be room for excellent, informed and personal service. That is our niche with the public, and that, hopefully, is what the Association can provide to you, our members
Kind permission of the Librarian Auckland Insititute & Museum