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Retail Learning

Retail’s New Year Resolutions 

4 min read

I’m not going to overhype the past year. It wasn’t the best ever in retail.  But it was a year of milestones and achievements – part of the exciting journey to New Retail.  

2018 was about the journey retailers are taking to innovate and change the way they interact with consumers, fulfil orders and showcase products. In short – we’ve come a long way to becoming (spot the buzzword) fully omnichannel.  

Here are some of our 2018 highlights: 

  • The plastic bag ban for Australian supermarkets 
  • The launch of Amazon Prime to AU 
  • Westfield was taken over by Unibail Rodamco  
  • Alibaba’s Single’s Day record with $30.8bn+ sold 
  • Wesfarmers divestment of Coles 
  • The launch of Cotton On’s new eCommerce hub launch 
  • Toll’s innovative eCommerce distribution hub launch 
  • eCommerce shows strength with $17bn eCommerce spend in AU out of total $311bn total spend (as of Nielsen’s December survey) 
  • Growth of new technologies with pilot tests in automation and development of automated warehousing, VR, AR, magic mirrors 
  • Growth of Alipay’s presence in Australia – key highlight is the partnership between Alipay and NAB 

So all in all, not a bad year in retail. As with any industry, however, we could always do better and we have a long way to go. There’s 1.2M of us in the retail sector, which represents a great opportunity to harness the talent and transform retail. 

We all love a good drunken New Years’ Eve resolution, but instead we’ve thought ahead! 

Here are some fairly solid suggestions for retail’s new year resolutions. Harness the opportunity presented in the New Retail revolution and let’s see what we can do with some pretty cool tech and a focus on what our people can do, eh? 

(Lets Co-create! Not compete!) 

There are some retailers who are doing phenomenal things. Like delivering intuitive customer service (which is actually no great secret) or automating warehouse operations with robots… But we’re not sharing and working together nicely. Can you imagine how fast the sector would grow if we worked together? True innovation across the board will take place when we can learn from each other. So come on guys, let’s play nicer together and support each other. Particularly with the smaller start-ups and innovators – imagine what they could achieve with support from some of the big household names. Yes, it’s a competitive industry, but competition enables the ability to thrive and deliver better experiences for the consumer, which is what we wall want, right? 


If we don’t support the development of new talent into the industry, we’re going to have a huge problem in the future. My interview with Jonathan Elms (Head of Australasia’s only Retail degree) pointed out that there’s a shortfall over up to 300 000 people in the industry (in New Zealand – so definitely worse over here) and that’s only going to grow unless we educate people about the wonderful world of retail and the lucrative and exciting opportunities it offers. Universities need to work with industry to create a degree that’s relevant and support students with access to internships and mentorships. Not only do we need to play nicely with each other, we need to work with tertiary too. The alternative is grim with huge gaps in knowledge, missing key skillsets with the likes of data, AI and analytics to name a few. 


Not only do we need to support fresh talent coming into the sector, but we need to make the most of the talent we have. A lot of the retailers leading the charge share their stories of success reflecting a lifetime of service in the industry, or falling into retail from other sectors. We need to work to keep the talent within the sector by offering them opportunities to upskill to help them thrive by learning skills in key areas such as data, analytics, technology and innovation to name a few. This means investing in our people and recognising the importance of professionalising the retail career path. Which brings me to… 


Macca’s (McDonalds for those not down with the slang) is a great example of a company that invests in its people from an early age. 15 year old’s working part-time are being steadily groomed to become the future COO’s, Brand Managers and Store Managers of the future. Part of their training is to offer their staff a pathway through to store ownership and head office management. This means that their senior leaders truly know the company and are great ambassadors of culture and Macca’s values. They’re not alone in their ability to bring in the next generation of leaders, but they’re definitely in the minority. Every staff member has the potential to be your future CEO and if you invest in them, you’ll have senior staff with amazing company knowledge and a true passion for your values – if you show them you care, that is. 


Yes, I’m in the business of learning – but I genuinely believe that the best investment you can make is in your people (see points 2,3 and 4). Conferences get a bad rep’ for being expensive networking with solution providers, but when chosen carefully, can give your team the opportunity to meet someone who gives them the inspiration to revolutionise your strategy, tweak that small part of your system to create huge improvement, or meet a new partner who can accelerate your growth. It doesn’t have to be conferences either – one thing the retail industry has in abundance is opportunities to learn. You can do this online (i.e. with the Retail Learning Channel #plug) with articles and learning, or with an online course in something like analytics, or with a hands-on workshop. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re learning, growing and achieving an outcome to improve your staff and therefore your business. 


Sure, we do this okay and there are a number of awards ceremonies scattered throughout the year for top solution provider, or best eCommerce pure play retailer, but we’re not really taking the time to pat each other on the back, are we? Our success goes beyond the current retailer awards, but needs to look across the industry at suppliers, retailers and those who lay the foundation for the sector. From every success story, there is an abundance of lessons learned and mistakes made. Let’s celebrate learning, failing and finally getting there. There is a long way to go for the industry to truly transform, so why not celebrate every success along the way? 


We’ve put together an event with the industry, for the industry to put everything in one place. University students will be there to meet their future mentors, retailers will network with their future team members and collaborators and solution providers will provide insight into the future of technology. We’re investing in an event that will serve to grow the industry, provide connections, upskill and celebrate success in a non-traditional way.  

So happy New Year – let’s do something different this year.