Otter Co-op's new general manager Jack Nicholson says their Honda Civic customer contest has been so successful for their retail store that the co-op will be exploring other contests for their ever-growing business locations.

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A man who started out as an apprentice baker for Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL) 22 years ago has risen to become the new general manager of one of their largest outlets.

Jack Nicholson took over the helm at Otter Co-op in Aldergrove last month after former GM Dean McKim was promoted to management at FCL’s head office in Saskatoon.

Nicholson, his wife Perrianne, and their four children came here in January of 2010 when he took over as operations manager at Otter Co-op. He had worked his way up in management at FCL outlets and offices in Alberta and Saskatchewan over the years and seized the opportunity to come here when the posting opened up at Otter Co-op.

“My wife has always wanted to live in B.C.,” said Nicholson.

And having the past year’s experience of working at Otter Co-op “made it easier for me to step in and provide continuity when Dean was promoted,” said Nicholson.

“We have a good five-year plan, the direction is set, and it’s a great team, they make me look good. We have a lot of long-term managers and that makes for stability.”

Otter Co-op has been aggressively expanding its operations throughout the Fraser Valley in recent years and Nicholson says this will continue.

In addition to its retail centre on 248 Street in Aldergrove, Otter Co-op has five gas bars, a hardware and feed outlet in Pitt Meadows, and they have an extensive dealer network selling feed from their feed mill in Aldergrove.

“Thirty per cent of our feed sales are now on Vancouver Island, and we are looking for new opportunities on the north shore (of Fraser River),” says Nicholson. “There are lots of opportunities for expansion.”

Currently underway is a produce and convenience store along with a pharmacy in Abbotsford, at Yale and McMillan Roads. And in the near future work will begin on a gas bar and convenience store along the Abbotsford-Mission Highway near Clayburn.

The co-op’s petroleum outlets have been one of their biggest growth areas in terms of volume, and have contributed mightily to their bottom line.

“Last year we beat our previous sales record by $10 million,” says Nicholson.

“We have been really successful by sticking with quality, and we keep our assets in great shape.”

Promotions like their ongoing customer draw for a new Honda Civic will also be pursued. The final draw for the winner will be made on June 5, and Nicholson says the contest has been a success in promoting their retail centre in Aldergrove. For every $50 spent in the retail store customers are given one entry in the draw.

“It’s our own in-store contest so it will be a local shopper who wins it; we’re very excited about that,” says Nicholson. “We will have different contests like it coming up for our different locations.”

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