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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Customer-centric Retailing

With the ups and downs in the economy over the past few years, all businesses have had to rethink how they operate. It’s no different for retail – doing the same old, same old will no longer deliver the same results. And this is where customer-centric retailing (CCR) comes in.

The basis of CCR is understanding customers better and using that understanding to correctly segment and target sectors of that customer community.  By focusing more effectively on customer behavior and identifying customer behavior – not to mention wants and needs – the customer is returned to the heart of the retail strategy, which of course, is precisely where it should be.
While CCR is hardly new, it does offer a new dimension to the retail space thanks to the ability to identify customer segments using loyalty card transaction data. Getting your client to sign up for your reward card is about more than simply wanting to reward them for shopping with you. It gives you the potential to see how they behave when they do business with you.
By better understanding the dynamics behind your customer’s shopping behavior, you are able to offer them more of what they want and need, when they want and need it. It’s good for the customer and it’s fantastic for you. However, there is more to it than simply punching a ticket nine times so your customer gets free coffee on the tenth visit – although that is part of it. To be really effective as a strategy CCR needs to be applied globally within your retail business; in other words, it applies to all parts of the business.
For many retailers – particularly in the SME space – this kind of thinking can represent a major change but many large international retail brands – including Tesco and French hypermarket chain Carrefour – have had immense success.
In order for CCR to be successful for both the retailer and the customer, businesses need to begin with a deep seated belief in what it is capable of delivering. Reserving judgement with a shrug while you wait to see what will happen does not work with CCR. If you don’t trust the system you will appear phony and your clients will  withdraw from the sales process. Remember it’s not about who is right and who is wrong – it’s about being able to cater effectively to your customer’s needs and requests.
From there you need to be fairly ‘bloody-minded. There is no place for thin skin in a successful business, especially retail. Keeping the customer experience of your retail brand at the forefront of your efforts and strategy can be exhausting. Not every customer will buy today. Some will walk away; some of those who do walk away won’t return. The key here it focus on the customer buying cycle and the customer experience. It’s not easy but it’s not impossble. Remember you are earning not only sales but the long term relationship with this customer; you need to earn their sales and their loyalty.
This may go against everything you have been taught but it’s true: employees come first. If your employees are happy – genuinely happy – you will soon have happy customers. When your customers are happy with your business, they are much more likely to not only return but to spend. An employee’s attitude toward their job can make or break a sale by having an impact on their ultimate experience of your retail business.
- John Caldwell

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Repco – the one to watch in 2013

Ioleen Barbao, Repco HR Manager & John Caldwell

The 2012 Retail Employer of the Year Awards were announced and Repco emerged as the clear winner of the large category. Run by Retailworld Resourcing, the Awards are voted by the public and are audited by independent accountants.
Not knowing a lot about the Auto industry I decided to explore a little further and I was beyond impressed with what I found.
Established in 1922, Repco now has a whopping 283 stores and is now a household name.
A string of ownership changes has led to more funding and expertise to enable growth. Repco was publically listed until 2007 when it was sold to the private equity firm Unitas Capital who own Exego Group, one of the largest after-market parts companies in Australia, with turnover in excess of $1bn.
Recently, a 30% sale to US based Genuine Parts Company for US$150 million has put Repco in an even stronger position. Exego Managing Director John Mollar was reported saying that it would be used to strengthen an already strong balance sheet to enable further growth.
Originally more of a trade based organization, Repco has now been in the retail space for many years. Recognising the financial gains and the ability to offer the customer more choice and easier access, Repco has engineered itself from 80% trade and 20% retail, to now a roughly 60/40 split. The goal is to soon be at 50/50.
Just having stores wasn’t enough. They wanted the best stores with the biggest range. So over the past 2 years Repco Australia has dramatically changed the landscape of the Australian automotive parts industry. By investing a whopping $50 million in their ‘More Parts for More Cars’ program they have added over 900,000 more parts.
MD John Moller says, “This game changing initiative will enable Repco store staff to say yes more often, and enable you, our customers, to spend less time looking for parts and more time on more cars, by calling Repco first. More Parts for More Cars, that’s why Repco is number 1 in Auto Parts.”
But money aside, it would appear that Repco’s biggest secret to success, evident in the recent award win, is creating a dynamic and people focused culture.
I recently met with Repco Human Resources Manager Ioleen Barbaro, to discuss the winning formula. Whilst it has been a long road and lots of work a humble Ioleen says the key factor in the Repco culture is FUN! They try to promote a fun culture and really want people to enjoy coming to work.
The past few years for the Repco HR team has been about ensuring that they don’t miss any avenue. With the focused change to retail they have created a much more diverse workforce and actively try and recruit different personalities to engage with all manner of customers.
The best part about creating this work force and culture is that it is top driven. Ioleeen says that the MD and the entire senior leadership team are very team focused and are always looking at ways to make Repco an employer of choice.
Ioleen was thrilled that the teams got behind the award and at one point even had stores calling saying they couldn’t access the site showing more than a keen interest in voting!
MD John said the award win “is a huge accomplishment andwould not have been possible if it weren’t for our employees recognizing their workplace and choosing tonominate Repco as their choice Employer!”
With such a strong people focus and a clear and focused growth strategy I am certain that Repco is the retailer to watch for big things in 2013.
- John Caldwell

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

a, b, c... M-Commerce

With at least 52% of Australian’s reported as owning a smartphone  in 2012, M-Commerce is taking off.  

Google Insights reports that 28% of Australian smartphone users have purchased through their device (excluding tablets and other mobile devices). With the new generation of consumers spending at least 55% of their internet consumption  through their phone daily, this is only likely to grow.

US Retailers notorious Thanksgiving weekend in the is the prime example of consumers looking to multichannel shopping methods, with 25.3% on sales coming  through mobile. Skava, who works with 6 of the top 30 internet retailers, saw a traffic increase of at least 100%.

Capturing the m-commerce market

(graph from:

 The graph above shows 2012 data  outlining what devices retailers are using – mobile site, android app, iphone app; with 36% of retailers offering all 3.

As an avid mobile user, there’s nothing worse than a desktop site trying to squeeze on the screen, with frustratingly small buttons and flash images that don’t work. Luckily, it seems that non-optimised sites are becoming a thing of the past – and now it’s about who is doing it better.

Looking at last year’s ‘Top App’ lists, it’s not suprising to see the majority are based around games or services as opposed to products. As retailers continue to innovate and adopt more technology, I’m sure they’ll be heading up the lists in the near future.

Making life easy
Create a shopping list by scanning barcodes? Yip, you can do it with the Woolworths app.

Targeted Marketing
If someone has downloaded your app, they like your brand. Smart retailers are making the most of the opportunity to target promotions and advertising through to their users. The H&M app shows you the latest promos simply by shaking your phone and will send push notifications about offers and events at the local store.

Adding personalized features engages users and adds to the customer experience to keep them coming back. Most fashion retailers offer a ‘favourites’ or ‘shopping bag’ option.
Kresta gives you the opportunity to take a photo of the window you need new curtains for, and try out different colours. 

So, where to from here? E and M Commerce is a focus for many retailers as they look to service the omni-channel future of shopping. Finding the right mix and making the experience harmonious is where some are coming out on top over others. 

- John Caldwell

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Employer Branding it’s not just BS

Working with so many global retailers I can say it is a fact that most retailers don’t do a great job of employer branding. In my opinion, it’s not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t understand it.

Employer branding is not just how pretty your job ads look, it is so much more than that. In fact, the visual side of it is just the icing on the cake. The process of developing and refining your employer brand can be an invigorating experience and can help outline the culture of the entire organisation.
Whilst there needs to be a strong link between your consumer brand and your employer brand they are by no means the same thing.
When developing your employer brand you need to look at all areas that it will affect:
  •  attraction
  • on boarding
  • training
  • retention
  • internal
  • external communications
  • remuneration
  • benefits including incentives
Having a strong employer brand could be the difference between someone joining your company or not, but it should also be the reason someone chooses to stay and grow with your company or why they choose to leave.

See the key that most people miss is that, once you are clear about your employer value proposition (EVP), a huge part of your employer brand is to ensure that you then meet the expectations to existing employees of the promises you make in the market place.
Sounds great but where do I start I hear you ask? Well of course you can contract a consulting firm (and there are some incredible ones with great reputations) however this can end up being hugely costly.

Step 1 is understand what you want to get out of this. Improve culture, reduce staff turnover, change the perception of your brand as an employer ? Once you are clear what your goals are, it’s time top start the research. 

Research does not have to be expensive or time consuming. The first research programme is easy and the audience is siting right next to you. Develop an anonymous 360 degree review process with your current team and ask them the key questions about what is good and bad about working for the company, what would engage them more and what they look for when looking to join a company. You can also commence exit interviews or put together forums for people to give feedback in a relaxed environed.
This alone will develop the foundations for the entire program. It is likely you will discover a lot about what drives people to work for you and this can be “exploited” when advertising for people in a cluttered employment market.

If you wanted to take it a step further you could have a brief survey that candidates fill out before and interview or if you work with a recruitment agency you could ask them to run a survey for you as well. If they are a quality firm they will already have information generically on what people are looking for.
Put together a committee and involve stakeholders from all areas of the bushiness. It’s a great way to keep it impartial and get buy in across the business. 

The key thing to establish here is the message you want to portray that will build an emotional connection with the job seeker and also to tell existing staff what the brand stands for and how they should be feeling in the business.
Key things to consider when putting your employer brand together:
  • Is it in line with your consumer brand, not contradictory
  • Does it add up ? Can you actually deliver on this promise – Buy in and regular 360 are a good way to measure this
  • What does it mean for someone looking to join your business – What can they expect
  • Packing up your offering into financial and non financial EG car parking, Birthday leave,
  • Show how you put people first.

Once you have got your package together look at any means of PR highlighting who you are as an employer. Recently Retailworld launched the Retail Employer of the Year Award and the companies who won were the ones that ran an impressive internal campaign asking there people to vote for them, be proud and not afraid to ask your team for support.  What better way to demonstrate that you are an employer of choice than winning awards voted for by your team.
Lastly once you have a clear message use it across everything and keep it top of mind remember HR is PR.

I was involved in an employer branding process with Toys R Us and the research told us that people expected to have fun at a “toy store”. The company however wanted to be taken seriously, so after a long process working with Employer branding specialist Peter Shean, the employer branding tag line was developed “serious about fun”. This really did speak to the heart of the brand and got the message across. The tag line was then shared across all HR areas – Serious about L&D, Serious about OH&S and was adapted perfectly across all areas.
The bottom line of employer branding is to use it as a fun exercise and a way to get past what you believe about your brand and actually hear what others think.

Too many people have had their head in the sand for too long. If you want to stand out as an employer of choice in a cluttered market place then this is the time to do something about it.
- John Caldwell

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Australia's leading Retail Employers Announced!

The votes are in and the country’s leading retail employers have been announced.

In a world where job seekers want the whole package – culture, work/life balance, career progression opportunities and incentives with a salary to match – it’s hard to create a ‘one size fits all’ employment brand.
Retailworld Resourcing introduced the Retail Employer of the Year Award to recognize the retail brands getting it right on all levels. Now in its second year, fierce competition in the votes-based award saw substantial growth in nominations and campaigning retailers for 2012.
Repco was the winner in the large category. Comments from voters had common themes around the fantastic culture and many observed that the brand “really cares about its employees” and that the business “has a proven record of employee retention.”
TS 14+ took out the medium category, with huge support from employees and happy customers who commented that it’s “like a big family… they’re always so warm and friendly.” One voter summed it up by saying, “TS14+ are totally committed to providing ongoing training to support and develop all of their staff.  They live and breathe the most amazing philosophy of professionalism, play, being there and making their day!”
Perth based retailer Gone Bazzar look out the small category aimed to recognising retailers with less than 100 full time equivalent staff.
New Zealand winners included The Warehouse, Amazon Surf and Lush Cosmetics.
For most, the perception is that employment branding is the same as the consumer brand and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A strong employment brand looks firstly at what you stand for as an employer, what the benefits are of working for you and most importantly how you live up to those promises.
This award is a chance for retailer’s teams to let them know that they appreciate the employer’s efforts.
As a constant campaigner of retail as the career of choice, Retailworld are thrilled to see the amazing work that retailers are doing to attract and retain talent within their business.
Nothing beats word of mouth, and winning this award is a credit to the brands that are putting in the hard yards.
- John Caldwell

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Decjuba – Rebirth of a brand

In a time in which many are claiming spending is down and business is verging on impossible, one entrepreneur is bucking the trend, bringing the Decjuba brand back from certain extinction.
When I arrived at the Decjuba offices in Collingwood I was immediately impressed.  Rather than a standard head office removed from the stores, it emulated a retail store. The staff moved with a purpose yet none to busy to greet me as they passed. Behind the stylish and well-designed reception was a clearly visible rack, almost to the ceiling, with the latest range forming the centre piece of the open plan offices.

As I waited with anticipation to meet the woman I had heard so much about, I was greeted by the familiar clanging sound of running rails being carried from the offices through the reception.  Yup this is a retailer!
Tania Austin, CEO, greeted me at reception and you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d just walked into  a shoot for Vogue or Harpers. A stylish woman dressed, not just immaculately but (to my surprise) head to toe in her own Decjuba designs.

Tania Austin was half of the superpower behind the Cotton on Group which includes Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Cotton On body, Rubi shoes and Typo. Together with her then-husband, Tania and Nigel grew a humble yet creative retail concept into a retail giant in multiple countries.
While speaking to Tania I expected some amazing pearls of wisdom as to how they grew a small business into a global force and the very unassuming Tania, whilst full of great advice, always brought it back to one thing:  back to basics.

There are thousands of reasons Tania and Nigel made a success of the Cotton on Brands but Tania stressed that the ability to keep your eyes wide open and always see all areas of the business coupled with listening to your people was a huge factor in their success. She also said that as the business grew it was critical not to let the numbers scare her; they took calculated risks and didn’t always play it safe.
After separating from Nigel, Tania made the tough decision to leave the business also and immediately knew she needed to find a new challenge as she had never not worked.  Having worked in the value-for-money space, Tania wanted to try her hand in a different style of retail where she could have more flexibility to play with design and fabrics and at the same time create an image. Tania identified the need for a brand that worked for the youth market and yet showed a maturing woman she didn’t need to stop being fashionable. In short she wanted to create a brand that made women feel great.

When Tania began considering her options she was approached to look at the Decjuba brand. Although the brand was a little lost in the market, Tania knew immediately this was the next step for her. Tania loved the platform and thought it was something she could build on and besides, she loved the name.

Decjuba was founded in 2003 by Kookai owner Rob Cromb, who sold the brand a short while later to focus on his core brand. At that point Decjuba began to face an identity crisis. Trying to be many different things the brand dabbled in men’s and women’s designs as well as accessories, leaving consumers confused as to what it was. By 2008  just as many thought the brand was no longer in existence, Tania stepped in.
Taking over six Australian and two New Zealand stores Tania made it a point to not make radical changes, preferring to assess and understand the brand. Working closely with the people in the company paid off as and most of the original team are still in place and have been an integral part of the growth.

Tania oversees all elements of design personally and is focused on keeping it simple, but just how does one go about reinventing an entire brand? The first answer from Tania was to have a considered approach which is not always tangible.
“Sometimes you just have to feel it” Austin says - a talent no doubt gained while completing her psychology degree.

Once you have developed a brand strategy you have to keep everything on brand, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
“Versatility was the other thing Austin targeted but a good fit is essential and will effectively become the cornerstone for your brand.  Customers want to be able to wear an outfit to the office and then throw a jacket on and head out to dinner; we have a core range of basics that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Even when I go to pick up the kids I can dress down accordingly,” Tania says, although your average soccer mom she isn’t.

As savvy with her commercial skills as she is, Tania knew the key to pulling all of her ideas into a winning brand was to leverage her fashion sense and to get margin on her side. The first step was to change the sourcing model from using agents in Hong Kong to becoming vertical retailer and sourcing direct from China. This not only improved margin it also gave a greater handle on product quality and speed to market a combination which is critical in today’s retail market.
The most remarkable thing about Tania is that she doesn’t seem to have a particular strength she focuses on. Rather she owns all areas of the business. She is as comfortable talking about her finances as she is her design. If there was one area that seemed to light she up it was her people. Tania says she believes people want to do the right thing and if you give them direction and freedom they will always surprise you. Speaking first hand with some of her people Tania walks the walk with her team and they have enormous respect for her. Each week all department heads meet on location at a store and review all areas of the business; this assures complete buy in to the bigger picture and departments work together for the greater good. 

Decjuba has a clear brand strategy and doesn’t do anything for the sake of it. You will find them on Facebook with over 12,000 followers and on Pinterest where you will be delighted with the amazing trends. All on brand, it’s clear that it’s a well thought out strategy.
So what’s next for this brand? The sky is the limit now; and with 23 stores and around seven  more opening next year, I am convinced Decjuba will soon be considered a leader in Australian fashion. Tania’s respect for what she calls her savvy customer will ensure the quality is maintained whilst the value-for-money and versatile ranges continue to delight. The online store will continue to grow and compliment the bricks and mortar sites.

The brand will foster its owner’s mantra of bravery and courage and will continue to push the boundaries.
Tania says she believes in acting with certainty and will be action focused to grow her brand.

“I don’t believe in failure,” says Tania.
Trust me: this is one lady that will not fail 

-John Caldwell