Fresh from his own Antipodean adventure, ex-David Jones and Country Road chief digital officer John Bovill reveals why Australia is the land of opportunity for retailers.

Australia offers a world of opportunity for retailers and brands looking to benefit from an economy that is experiencing the largest prolonged economic growth in history - 27 years - with Lithium mining fueling the continued commodity boom.

Australia has one of the most urbanised populations in the world and population growth is forecast to be double the average of the OECD, primarily through Asian and Indian migration.

The internet mix of retail sales is low at 7% compared with circa 20% in more developed countries such as Korea and China.

However, with mobile penetration within the top 5 globally and annualised consumer internet growth of 35%, there is significant promise.

Australia is recognised as the “gateway to Asia” hosting the 2017 ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] conference and is China’s 3rd largest overseas market.

Chinese ecommerce giants Alibaba,, and Kaola have local operations in Australia to maximise the opportunity to access “clean, green, safe” merchants and products (vitamin supplements and formula milk etc) highly valued in the Asian markets.

From a consumer perspective, Asia typically views Australia as a niche market focusing more on developing markets such as India and Russia.

The opportunity for UK brands

There is significant opportunity for UK consumer brands and retailers given our cultural heritage and resultant similarities.

Market entry needs to consider counter seasonality, fiscal rules – for example, the recent introduction of 10% GST [goods and services tax] on online imports - and competitive environment. Local marketplaces such as Amazon Australia, launched in Nov 2017, and Global Fashion Group, which runs fashion marketplace Iconic, provide low-risk market entry opportunities.

John Bovill joins the expert panel on Retail Week’s webcast Digitising Down Under. To discover how to crack Australia tune into tomorrow at 2pm. Register to watch here

In my two years as chief digital officer of $3.3bn turnover luxury department store David Jones and Country Road Group, we doubled online profits and grew market share.

Our recent investment in a group online common platform enabling anytime, anywhere fulfilment delivered $5.7m annualised cost savings and circa 75% online growth within David Jones.

This success emphasises the opportunity of offering seamless and exciting experiences for customers. A strategy familiar with UK retailers.

After two years in Australia the job is done and I have returned to the UK to be with my family.

The experience helped me mature as a leader through improved self-awareness, which is typical for an international assignment.

As a family, we have very fond memories of happy people and a place full of promise. When our families are at a different phase of life we would consider a return to Australia or another international assignment.

However, for now our focus is settling at home and seeking career opportunities to help retailers and brands realise the opportunities to trade across global, connected communities.

John Bovill was chief digital officer at David Jones and Country Road Group. He was previously IT and ecommerce director at Monsoon