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My Story Series

My Story – Retail through the eyes of a true Sydney sider

3 min read

An ode to the revolution and evolution of retail and to the terra nova of New Retail – through the eyes of a Sydney inner westie 


“Never use the word “cheap”. Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a t-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

Since I was a young lad growing up in the inner west and going to school in Strathfield, shopping and window shopping has always had a golden piece of my heart. My love of retail started when I was very young watching ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and learning that the finer materialistic things in life come from a store – but not just any store – the store you walk into and be blown away from the customer service, to the smell of the polish that they clean the floor with.  

The revolution of retail started as I remember it when I was 16, wandering the top level of the QVB building window shopping. I walked into a fine thread store that caters for the gentleman looking for a well cut blazer “Joe Bananas”.  As I was admiring a brown tweed well-tailored blazer with leather elbow patches, I thought I would be treated like scene from ‘Pretty Woman’ where she was kicked out the store for not being up to their standards, but instead old man Joe came up to me to me and commended me on my eye for style as the “haute couture” – that I later learned meant “high fashion” did not come in my size, but I would be able to purchase it online when his website was finalised. 

This was the moment I realised that bricks-and-mortar and online had to merge into a synergised ominchanel symphony, but how can this be without losing the human touch? 

At the end of the day, especially in retail, you’ve got humans serving humans. And really, the more engaged and happier the associates are, the happier our guests are. It’s not complicated. – Mary Dillon 

For the past twelve years, I have worked in the corporate event world. I first started in the industry when the dreaded and deadly GFC hit the harbour of Sydney like the tidal waves that wash shores during the wet season. I witnessed retailers crumble and the lucrative fashion district of Sydney threaten to fall to pieces, but the retailers that had future-thinking industry disruptors stand like the imperialistic roman buildings of Europe.  I was left thinking: How did they do this? Why did they so this? What can we learn from them? 

Whilst the GFC was pounding its aggression on the shores of Australia, across the pacific a startup called Amazon was growing. The creators of Amazon were working on a solution to create a platform that helps standalone bricks-and-mortar retailers move to the new terra nova of online shopping. From this came the beast as we know it that sells everything from A-Z and with a smile on their face, has become a force to be reckoned with.  

The questions that consumed me from these years will finally be answered at New Retail ’19, which will not only be an ode to retail, but a celebration of the future, like good old Joe Banana and how he has become a 5th Avenue icon.  

New Retail 2019 will be Australia’s largest retail event focused on the future of the retail journey and surviving business in the digital era – going beyond eCommerce and developing an ecosystem of digital services that enhances the consumer experience. 

The event will give you access to over 60 retail legends presenting over 3 days of how they rode the retail bull and have succeed through time and will be continuing to succeed.  

Retail legends that will be presenting are: 

  • Simon Torring, Director Omni-channel Innovation, Sephora South East Asia (Singapore) 
  • Jody Marshall, Group Product Manager Operations Domain, Walmart (Canada) 
  • Jack Gance, Chairman, My Chemist Warehouse 
  • Andy Sutton, Head of Personalisation, Dan Murphys, Woolworths 
  • Vlad Yakubson, Head of Retail, YD 
  • Fabio Bertola, Head of Seller Services, Amazon 


New Retail will be presenting the four pillars of future retail over 3 days:   


If you would like to know more about my retail journey free to give me a buzz or send me an email, I might even give you a discount code for you to attend New Retail ‘19 

Viva la rivoluzione! Viva New Retail!


About the Author

Stefan C. Semken is a Retail Knowledge Facilitator at Retail Learning Channel. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


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