The new wave of retailers leaving the GFC blues behind

The latest buoyant ABS retail sales stats support the reported lift in Westfield’s top line mall sales.

Stronger half-year results from most of our publicly-listed retailers, positive announcements from the unlisted multinational retailers like Costco and ALDI, as well as anecdotes from small, independently owned retailers across Australia showed that retail is improving at store level.

Controllable costs (excluding FWA mandated wages and carbon tax-related energy costs) have now been brought into line, interest on overdraft facilities have lowered, new lines are being sourced from new suppliers and lower prices offered by long-term suppliers are all improving the picture for retailers. It’s also interesting to see that new stores are now opening up to fill the gaps left by closed stores.

Australia has a raft of new international entrants joining the mall and high street scene, including H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Williams-Sonoma and Gap.

But what’s more interesting for me is the number of small, truly new local retailers opening stores.

These stores are new in all senses of the word. When truly new business people move into retail they do so without the legacy of the pre-2008 GFC world. Their leases reflect the rental market today: they adopt online sales as well as store sales from day one; they use social media to communicate with shoppers; and they offer new products sourced from new factories, countries or suppliers.

All of this ‘newness’ in one place leads to truly innovative retailing, giving the retailer every possibility to succeed.

Recently, I saw a new store format, apparently set up by “new Australian” retailers. Whilst they have a background in retailing in the UK, they haven’t worked in retail in Australia. Until now.

The new store is in a high-footfall Westfield mall in northern Sydney. It’s called The Card Shop.

It sells high quality cards of all types and designs, priced from $4.95 upwards and printed locally on recycled paper. The store layout is innovative for a card shop in that it is modelled on a San Francisco record store: layers of bright cards displayed like small vinyl records from low to high.

The owner, Kieron Barton, is better known to my kids as the importer of Rekorderlig Cider, but my feeling is that they, their friends and family will become regular shoppers at his new store.

I’ve written about Grove & Vine in South Yarra, The Annex in Bondi, and now The Card Shop in Brookvale. I wish all of them and their staff good fortune, because we need new retail stores creating new retail jobs to replace the jobs we are now losing in the mining and minerals industry.

And now seems like a good time to enter retailing, especially for the first time.

CROSSMARK CEO Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries.



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