Nostalgia for the days of the milkman led Heather and Geoff Roberts to invest in Aussie Farmers Direct.
The Melbourne couple in their late 50s took out two franchises and a truck lease for $120,000 to deliver fresh milk and groceries to elderly and time-poor customers.
After completing his overnight deliveries on Monday, Mr Roberts woke up in the afternoon to devastating news the grocery delivery service that began 13 years ago was to close immediately after going into voluntary administration.
They are among 100 franchisees and 260 employees hit by the closure – most of them from Victoria.
‘The reason we went into it was because we liked the idea of supporting Australian primary industry,’ he told AAP, adding he grew up in regional areas.
‘What appealed to me was Aussie Farmers were paying fair farm gate prices.’
The Roberts, who have a son with special needs, are owed a month’s worth of delivery fee payments and have started filling out Centrelink forms, while they try to find other options for their delivery business and customers.
They had invested Mrs Robert’s superannuation into the venture and had planned to retire in the next five years and hire a driver to keep the business ticking along.
‘I haven’t had a holiday for the past two-and-a-half years while I was doing deliveries,’ he said, adding that won’t happening now either.
Administrator Craig Shepard said there was little cash in the company, which struggled to compete with the supermarket giants in a tough retail environment exacerbated by low wage growth.
The company had expanded to NSW, Queensland, WA, SA and the ACT, but Mr Shepard said Aussie Farmers Direct had struggled to compete with the major supermarkets and the promotion of low-cost imported products they sold.
A creditors’ meeting will be called next week.
Franchisees are secondary creditors down the list behind farmers and employees.