After a turbulent – and well-publicised – final quarter in 2017, my team and I decided to enter 2018 with boldness.
As retail leaders, we are in a competitive, dynamic environment that always creates positive challenge. Strong and open leadership is even more essential when leading in a crisis.
This forces us to make quick and sometimes tough decisions – it’s always been part of the job.
The challenge in a previous role at Coles was to take an underperforming supermarket brand and transform it into one of Australia’s leading food, convenience and alcohol chains.
No matter how testing it was at times, being backed by a brilliant parent company in Wesfarmers gave us the confidence to make fearless decisions on customer experience, productivity and product innovation, which all underpinned the business turnaround.
Working for a well-renowned national brand means working under the constant media spotlight, which creates its own challenges. As a team, we took the knocks but celebrated the wins and kept focus on our long-term goals.
“Through challenging times, it is critical not to get distracted by commentary and instead keep focused on the business, championing innovation and sticking to the strategy”
At Target, in challenging market conditions, we made a bold decision to move away from a chaotic high-low price model to an everyday proposition, which was showing signs of success.
I always feel pride about some of the great work that the team delivered, especially around ecommerce, store format, customer experience and affordable fashion.
When you love a business, no matter how challenging, it is always difficult to leave. The reality is, transformation on this scale takes many years, not just two.
Through challenging times, it is critical not to get distracted by commentary and instead keep focused on the business, championing innovation and sticking to the strategy.
The pressure to report on quarterly numbers can cause paranoia and short-term decision-making.
Learning from the competition
Sometimes when you go through a tough period, you look at your competitors’ results in the hope they justify your own. I’m trying a new approach to view competition as healthy and learn as much as I can from it.
I look at what other leaders are doing, and how others introduce innovation even under intense pressure.
I find motivation in some ideas; like Next opening a car showroom in Manchester, start-up Stowga offering an Airbnb service for warehouse space, Zara opening an online-only store in Westfield, or Intermarché creating a huge demand for 1kg Nutella.
All of these are innovative solutions where retailers react to challenge, and are great examples of how to maximise space, delight customers, or create a surge in demand for a certain product.
I’m proud of some of the decisions we are taking at Harveys and Bensons in our new approach to the digital space, communicating our brands in a very different way, and reinvigorating our product ranges.
We also have laser focus on efficient investment and control that underpins our future plans.
We should cheer on the retail industry even more so in challenging times and remind ourselves that pressure is a privilege.