A Fourth Generation Family Company
In 1934, Herb and Doris Charlesworth opened a small nut and dried fruit stand at the Central Market in Adelaide. Eighty years later, Charlesworth Nuts has earned its place as an iconic South Australian business – and the Charlesworth family is still at the helm.
Herb and Doris passed the business on to their son Chappy, who eventually passed it on to his sons, Brett and Mark. Brett’s three sons work in the business now, and they will take it over themselves one day. Furthermore, with the birth of great-great-granddaughter Jayde Ava Charlesworth one year ago, the business could eventually pass on to a fifth generation.
This year’s Christmas catalogue puts family front and centre – and in doing so, showcases what Charlesworth Nuts is all about. “The first of the fifth generation has just been born, so that gave us a chance to talk about family and business; what family means to us, what Christmas means to us,” Brett explains. “It is not just a marketing catalogue about gifts. It also telling our story, because this is more than just a business for us – we are a family.”
Of course, this year’s Christmas catalogue is also chock full of holiday treats. In fact, half of the company’s Christmas sales come from its extensive range of Christmas gifts. Charlesworth Nuts offers well over a hundred different gift options, from extravagant $250.00 baskets overflowing with goodies, to bags of mixed nuts that cost less than $10.00. Whatever the price point, Charlesworth Nuts Christmas gifts are thoughtfully packaged to ensure a superior presentation that “people feel proud to be giving to someone else,” Brett explains.
Charlesworth Nuts’ product range also goes well beyond Christmas gifts to include raw and cooked nuts, mixes, dried fruit, chocolate, and other sweets. Many of the company’s value-added products – primarily mixes and sweets – are not available anywhere else. “We create a lot of exclusive mixtures of products,” Brett explains. “We create a lot of new chocolate lines.” New products are rolled out frequently, ensuring that consumers always have something novel to try out. “We introduce new products five or six times a year; we are constantly refreshing the range. [Customers] love the old favourites, but they also love to see how we can freshen them up and give them a different look and a different taste.”
Every Charlesworth Nuts product – both new and old – is of the highest quality. In fact, quality is a core Charlesworth family value, along with service and respect. “They aren’t just words,” Brett insists. “You live them every day, they permeate right throughout the company.” These values have been an integral part of the business since day one – and have been key to lasting success. “The most important thing in business is to get your product right and to get your service right,” Brett explains. “So we have had those values stamped on the business right from the start; my grandmother and grandfather had those values.”
Doris and Herb instilled that commitment to quality in their son, Chappy. “When it came to quality and freshness of product there was no compromising,” Brett recalls of his father. “It had to be the absolute best. He bought the best, he stored it well, and sold it in peak condition. And anything less than that just wasn’t acceptable.” Now, that commitment to quality “has come down to my brother and me and we are passing it on to my sons.” As a result, Charlesworth Nuts is able to stand out from the competition. “There are plenty of nuts out there in the market,” Brett points out, so having this differentiation is crucial.
Maintaining this level of quality is not easy, of course. “You have to buy from reliable sources, you have to buy the best grade, the best product. Then you’ve got to handle it correctly and make sure that by the time it gets to your customer it is in absolutely peak condition. Being able to provide that level of quality and freshness takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but that is what sets our product apart from a lot of other product that is out there. We take the time and care to make sure that it is in its very best form.”
Providing superior service is also a foundational Charlesworth family value. This commitment is not just lip service – it comes from the heart. “We have been very passionate about the level of service that we provide,” Brett shares. “I think a lot of businesses out there today treat customer service as a marketing gimmick. But if that is the way you are going about it, I don’t believe it is going to work. It has to be genuinely warm and real. That is the culture that we try to permeate throughout the business.”
Respect is also an important value at Charlesworth Nuts. “That is respect for the customer, respect for the people who are working for you, respect for suppliers,” Brett explains. “And if you have that level of respect for everyone, if you involve them and you get them to buy into what you believe in, then the quality and service flow along with that as well.”
As the company grows, maintaining core Charlesworth values becomes more difficult, of course, and the team is working hard to instil the company culture in all 300 employees who will be working there for the Christmas season. “Once you get bigger and bigger it becomes a lot harder to have that culture and those genuine values right throughout the company,” Brett admits. “But we believe we’ve managed to do that.”
Charlesworth Nuts’ commitment to quality and service continues to drive growth. The company just opened a new store in Burnside Village in July and another store at number 1 Rundle Mall in Adelaide last November. Ideally located at an “iconic retail site,” the new Rundle Mall location has become the company’s flagship store. Charlesworth Nuts now runs a total of 11 brick and mortar stores in addition to its online shop, which can provide product to customers throughout Australia.
The new stores are a significant achievement in light of the current retail climate. “Things are fairly tough out there in retail right now,” says Brett, but the family has always believed in staying one step ahead of tough times. “If things are tough, it means that you’ve got to be tougher and you’ve got to meet the challenges head on. And a good way of growing our business was to get two more stores in two prime shopping precincts in Adelaide. The push has paid off; sales are up 12 to 13 per cent over the last 12 months.
The next major step for Charlesworth Nuts will be to pass the business on to the fourth generation. “We are about to go through a generational shift,” Brett says. “My brother and I are in our mid-50s and we have been running the business now for 30 odd years.” Brett’s three sons (Mark does not have any children) have all been working at the company for several years and “they all want to take the business to the next level. So we are in the process of managing that generational change over the next ten years.” Brett and Mark are not stepping aside yet, but they are eager to see the fourth generation take on more responsibilities and prepare for the future.
The team is also eyeing some lucrative opportunities beyond South Australia. “The model we have here is something that would work exceptionally well interstate, [in] Melbourne or Sydney,” Brett points out. “We just need to work through some of the logistics.” With two major goals on the horizon – a handover to the next generation and an interstate expansion – the future is full of possibilities. And with 80 years of success already accomplished, the company is well placed to make the most of these upcoming opportunities.