National retail star signs with Capricorn

BOASTING nearly 7,000 members throughout Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, it is no wonder Perth-headquartered automotive supply group Capricorn Society has turned to one of Australia’s most successful retailers to recruit a new leader.

Former Coles Myer and David Jones general manager (buying) Trent Bartlett has taken on the newly created role of chief executive officer at Capricorn, replacing general manager and founding member Frank O’Connor as the operational head of the group.

The society is a legacy of the once high-profile Golden Fleece service station brand.

Created 32 years ago by 11 local Golden Fleece owners to save some money on automotive supplies, the cooperative has grown into a multi-national, turning over $300 million a year and relying on WA for less than one third of its business.

Capricorn acts as the intermediary, taking care of the invoicing and cash transfer between its members and their suppliers.

The suppliers are happy because they get paid on monthly terms.

The members are happy because, besides getting better prices, they only have one invoice to deal with for all of their automotive supply needs.

The coop’s profits are either put back into the business or distributed to members. Members’ dividends depend on the amount of transactions they have done through their Capricorn account.

The cooperative even has a travel arm to its business – Abernethy Travel – that acts as a conference organiser for Capricorn members. It won a Qantas travel award last year

Members booking travel through Abernethy have that added to their Capricorn account.

The coop has arranged a similar deal with Liquorland.

Capricorn is supplying its administrative services to the Guild Shield Chemist Coop, the Esperance Organised Primary Producers and the Albany Organised Primary Producers.

Mr Bartlett said the business was an intermediary in the true sense of the word.

“We’re driven by what adds value to our members. This is something we need to keep targeting because if their needs change, we have to change with them,” he said.

“We see ourselves as using technology to enable us rather than as a way to

create a market.

“Our IT systems are quite advanced because we try to keep ahead of the needs of our members and their suppliers.”

The cooperative also has been recognised as one of the world’s first true e-businesses.

Indeed, technological disparities do pose problems to the coop. Some of its members do not even have fax machines while some of the suppliers have some very sophisticated IT systems.

“We help our members to help themselves and the coop through assisting them with their IT and computing,” Mr Bartlett said.

“We’re here to generate profits and give those back to the members.”

He said automotive supplying was still Capri-corn’s core area.

“But the area of automotive supplies is huge, stretching into areas such as boats, heavy machinery and even engineering,” Mr Bartlett said.

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