How this retailer went from a small Tuckerbag to rivalling some of Australia’s biggest

3 October, 2023
saccas-butcher altona gate
Sacca's Fine Foods has grown to rival some of Australia's largest retailers.Credit: Vicinity Centres

“In my opinion, it’s one of the best recent stories in Australian retail,” said Joel Godde, Vicinity’s General Manager – Leasing for VIC/TAS/WA.

“Wal and Carlos Sacca are the owners. Their father, William, emigrated from Palestine to Australia and started a small Tuckerbag supermarket with his six brothers in the suburb of Fairfield in Melbourne’s north.

“After some success, William then opened a small Fruit and Veg store in Brunswick before, in 2012, Wal and Carlos bought into the family business and opened large stores at Altona Gate and Airport West.

“Wal and Carlos have over the last ten years grown the business exponentially into a number of locations including Broadmeadows Central and Roxburgh Park with a much-expanded product range.”

Godde is speaking about fresh food, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods retailer, Sacca’s Fine Foods. It’s a retailer he knows well after first meeting them in 2014, becoming their Vicinity leasing partner and helping them navigate an inspiring story of business growth.

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Wal and Carlos outside their store at Broadmeadows Central.Credit: Vicinity Centres

When you know, you know

“After many years of experience in Leasing, you can start to see which retailers and people are the right ones to back, and Sacca’s ticked all the boxes,” said Godde.

“They had great passion and work ethic, knowledge of their industry, and strong wholesale networks and suppliers. They also had strong financial structures which would provide them with a solid and more stable platform from which they could grow.”

In Godde’s first review of Sacca’s he could see the fundamentals were in place which led him to connect with the owners to understand their plans and ambitions for the future. At the time, Sacca’s occupied a much smaller 1,500 sqm space at Altona Gate in Melbourne’s west. After several years of trading there, the business had earned itself a positive reputation with the local community, known for high quality deli products amongst other things.

One of the most important traits of growing a business in a shopping centre environment is the ability to learn quickly and not be scared to be dynamic with the offering.
Joel GoddeVicinity General Manager – Leasing for VIC/TAS/WA

The success Wal and Carlos had experienced at Altona Gate inspired them to want to grow and provide the same high-quality fresh foods to customers in other parts of Melbourne’s north and west. They knew their industry and had ambition but needed guidance to bring their plans to life. That’s where Godde and the Vicinity team stepped in.

Property excellence and business partnering, not selling space

Attitude was no issue for Sacca’s, with Wal and Carlos a perfect leadership duo, bouncing off each other with complementary skills and areas of focus. All united by one goal – to grow their business while retaining the same high standards to provide customers with only the best food for their families.

Sacca’s were experts in their field but not in the opportunities to be found in shopping centre retail.

“Our Leasing team are experts in our centres, the customers in each trade area and the communities in which our centres are central. We use data and insights to get a really good idea of how a store will perform before it even opens, so we are in a great position to help retailers grow sustainably,” said Godde.

In growing his partnership with Sacca’s, Godde introduced them to some of his valued connections in areas Sacca’s may consider growing into. In true Melbourne style, he used coffee as the connector, setting up casual café meetings with shopfitters and suppliers including what turned out to be a pivotal meeting with expert butcher Colin Pretty of Pretty’s Prime Cuts. Yearning to learn more, the Sacca’s brothers also invested hundreds of hours into researching successful bakeries, liquor merchants, and leading seafood and meat providers.

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Sacca's once started life as a small Tuckerbag operation before growing significantly.Credit: Vicinity Centres

Through these connections and additional research, the Sacca’s brothers were able to learn about growth markets from people that had been there and done it before them.

“Their passion to learn and grow was infectious. There was a point when Bakers Delight at Altona Gate vacated so I recommended they consider adding a bakery element to their store. Soon after, they came back to me, having read and talked to people, effectively becoming experts overnight.”

After a couple of years of business advisory and guidance, in 2020, a large space became available at Broadmeadows Central and Godde knew exactly who could take advantage.

Connecting Sacca’s with the right spaces to support ambitious growth

At Altona Gate, Sacca’s was presented the opportunity to expand their space following Vicinity’s $22-million investment into a refresh at the centre. Following their success in the area, Sacca’s grew to 2,300 sqm store space and opened a separate butcher opposite the main store. But the opportunity at Broadmeadows would prove even bigger.

With Godde and the Leasing team’s support, Sacca’s opened in the new much larger 5,000sqm site at Broadmeadows Central in mid-2022.

The Broadmeadows Central store put Sacca’s on the map but because we’d grown with them and they’d learned so much at Altona Gate, it wasn’t a surprise for us to see them do so well.
Joel GoddeVicinity General Manager – Leasing for VIC/TAS/WA

With Godde and the Leasing team’s support, Sacca’s opened in the new much larger 5,000sqm site at Broadmeadows Central in mid-2022.

Opening a 5,000 sqm fresh food, deli and artisan products store - twice the size of their Altona Gate store - in a centre already boasting a Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, was a bold move but with Godde’s guidance, Vicinity’s data and insights, and many hours of research involved to back it up, the Sacca’s team have performed very well.

Sacca's includes a bakery, fresh food, butchers and more.Credit: Vicinity Centres

Fuelled by growth ambitions, just before the Broadmeadows Central new 5,000sqm store opened, the group discussed another location at Vicinity’s Roxburgh Village shopping centre. Similar to Broadmeadows Central, Roxburgh Village had a large vacancy looming in 2022, representing another opportunity for Sacca’s to expand the business and grow its customer base.

Still in close partnership, Godde toured Wal and Carlos around the site and discussed at length what they might do and how they could fit in.

“We had the large space that we knew they would be able to perform well in and adjacent we had a recently closed café site that presented an opportunity to combine the two sites for increased shopfront exposure and a broader full line café offering,” said Godde.

With that, Sacca’s opened the almost 4,000sqm store at Roxburgh Village in late June 2023, presenting the latest and most accurate example of their brand and ambition yet - not bad for a once-small fresh food operator!

The secret to growth

Independent fresh food retailers are a growing trend according to Godde but getting the business fundamentals correct for long-term growth is very challenging as the margins are small and the business model is complex and the competition from national supermarkets is fierce and constant.

“The nature of this type of retailer is high sales, low margins. They must learn quickly, be adaptable, and surround themselves with the right people. The team at Sacca’s are smart and have done exactly that and are now enjoying the benefits.”

Vicinity has been on the journey with Sacca’s for a number of years and helped guide them to shopping centre spaces that allow them to deliver on their strategy. Regular checks on performance are conducted along with careful growth planning to avoid growing too quickly or taking on too much risk.

Leasing is sometimes referred to as sales but it’s more like being a trusted business advisor and market expert.
Joel GoddeVicinity General Manager – Leasing for VIC/TAS/WA

“We’ve partnered with numerous growth businesses and many of them have common traits that makes growth successful.

“First and foremost, they have a sound and dynamic business plan with the ambition to grow but at a sustainable pace. They are as aware of their weaknesses as they are their strengths, and make sure they have good mentors and advisors to help guide them.”

The ultimate goal for Vicinity’s Leasing team is to deliver property excellence by helping retailers grow and be successful in the long-term. Using valuable learnings, data and insights, and market knowledge, the team is able to work with businesses to find the perfect space to help them grow.

Godde sums up their approach most succinctly:

“We’re building strong relationships, setting the foundations for long term success for our retailers and for Vicinity.”

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