Countdown 'should have done more' over rat concerns

Jason Stockill
Jason Stockill
Countdown has accepted it should have done more when staff first raised concerns about a rat infestation at its South Dunedin store.

After another rat was captured yesterday, the store is determined to reopen it doors on Sunday.

Its plans to do so have already being pushed back for over two weeks as more rodents continue to emerge.

Woolworths New Zealand director of stores Jason Stockill said in an interview with the Otago Daily Times that the next 24 hours at the store would be "really important".

Pest control company Rentokil had been conducting intensive pest control work in the store and he believed the issue was now "under control".

But when asked if management had listened to initial staff concerns and taken appropriate action, Mr Stockill accepted they could have done more.

"We obviously should have done more, and that’s what we’ve come to realise as we’ve gone through this process.

"We’ve taken measures now that we’ve not taken before and we have obviously reviewed already our systems in place."

He acknowledged that a widely-publicised rat outbreak did not bode well for their brand’s image.

"Any incident like this is not good for your brand, without a doubt, and we accept that.

"That’s why we will obviously take accountability of where we’ve gone."

Mr Stockill dismissed any notion the store would close permanently, and said they would continue to follow Rentokil’s advice.

Yesterday wall cladding was removed that had uncovered "evidence of old rat nests".

Mr Stockill said the store had faced challenges with the environment as the rats had made their way into the store from outside, but was confident this has been addressed as rat numbers were now declining.

Mr Stockill said Countdown South Dunedin was the biggest store the franchise has based in the city, and some of their customers had diverted their shopping to these other stores.

He declined to elaborate any further on the store’s finances.

He could not provide exact numbers on how much stock had needed to be thrown out, nor did he know how much time it would take to restore confidence and trust with consumers.

"We’ll do as much as we can with the community to give them the confidence back in our supermarkets."