05/05/2011 - 00:00

No secret to Catalano’s seafood success

05/05/2011 - 00:00


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SELLING seafood has always been in the Catalano brothers’ blood sine, as teenagers, Nick and Paul Catalano started working at their father Frank’s Cannington fish and chip shop.

SELLING seafood has always been in the Catalano brothers’ blood sine, as teenagers, Nick and Paul Catalano started working at their father Frank’s Cannington fish and chip shop.

That was more than 40 years ago, and since that time the brothers have grown the Catalano's Seafood business through the introduction of their Seafood Secrets retail stores, which supply seafood to supermarkets, and by selling seafood on Saturday mornings direct from their Bassendean fish market.

Catalano Seafoods has gone through significant changes to its business model during the past four decades, particularly in the mid 1980s when the Catalanos decided it was time to venture into the wholesale market and expand their retail footprint.

“We operated more of a takeaway food business until 1985 and it was then that we decided that we would go into wholesale, so we operated a wholesale fish business from the back of the fish and chip shop,” Nick Catalano said.

At around the same time, Frank Catalano opened his first traditional ‘wet’ fish shop in the Carousel Shopping Centre, then a similar store in Belmont Forum.

However, the Catalanos quickly realised that they would have difficulty managing more than a couple of these traditional fish shops, with Frank managing Carousel and Paul managing Belmont.

“The whole idea was to set up half a dozen of these retail shops, but we couldn’t see these working,” Nick said.

“If we went to a third store we knew that we couldn’t pass onto the customer that same knowledge and experience that is needed for a fresh fish shop.”

In addition, the live fish element associated with these traditional shops did not resonate with customers.

“The idea of selling live fish failed because people didn’t like taking live things home that jumped around in their bags,” Paul said.

Instead of setting up any more traditional fish stores, the Catalanos decided to supply their seafood to supermarkets in the late 1980s.

“Up until then, all the fish in Coles was imported, frozen and thawed out in the deli. Supermarkets never sold fresh fish back then, so we essentially became advisers to the Coles chain and now supply over 40 Coles stores,” Paul said.

They also recognised an opportunity with supermarkets, believing that people should be able to have access to fresh fish without having to go to a traditional fish shop.

After supplying Coles supermarkets for more than a decade, the Catalano brothers still had the desire to create a ‘manageable’ retail concept.

“We couldn’t get away from the idea of using our knowledge in retail, so we ended up coming up with the idea of doing packaged fish and Seafood Secrets was born,” Nick said.

In 2005, the Catalanos set up their first Seafood Secrets store at Garden City Shopping Centre, selling both fresh and frozen pre-packaged seafood and at the same time developed their Sea Diamond range for supply into IGA stores.

The Catalanos have since opened stores in Morley and Karrinyup and their first franchised store within IGA Joondalup.

However, changing people’s perception that frozen seafood is inferior to fresh seafood is still a challenge for the pair.

“When we first opened Garden City only about 10 per cent of our frozen product was selling; now it is 50 per cent,” Paul said.

Nick said the business faced two major challenges.

“Firstly, to demonstrate to a consumer that you can buy fresh fish in a pack the same way you can buy fresh meat in a pack, and secondly to demonstrate that frozen is also a good option, because you can have product that’s out of season, that’s frozen immediately after its caught and sealed correctly,” he said.

Nick said he and Paul had handed over the running of Seafood Secrets to the third generation of Catalano, Nick’s son Josh and his cousin Mark, allowing Nick to focus on management and Paul on the franchising side of the business.

“Josh and Mark are focusing on the day-to-day management and marketing of the stores and by continuing to value the customer, the boys will be able to educate them,” he said.



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