Retail Doctor Group

Brian Walker and Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis on stage at the Fit for Business breakfast.

Super Retail Group CEO, Peter Birtles, isn’t overly interested in discussing the challenge posed by Amazon when it launches in the coming weeks or months.

Instead, as he told other retailers at a Retail Doctor Group breakfast event in Sydney last week, he’s focused on the one big lesson retailers can learn from the ecommerce giant—a relentless focus on the customer.

“Amazon will beat us on price and product but we can build an emotional connection with customers,” he said. “Retailers need to earn the right to be the one that fulfils a customer’s need.”

The high-involvement categories Super Retail plays in—sport, outdoors, fishing—means the company has the ability to build a community between its staff and customers.

Birtles said it all starts with employing the right team members, who share their customers’ passions and create emotional connections built around a shared interest in leisure activities.

By employing staff that are passionate about the products, and who can convey this passion to customers, brands like boating, camping and fishing retailer BCF can create a compelling reason for consumers to shop with them.

As Birtles put it: “If our customers want to catch a fish, our role is to help that customer catch a fish, not just sell them a reel or rod”.

Speaking at the event, Retail Doctor CEO Brian Walker offered advice for Australian retailers who want to ensure they remain competitive, telling attendees to “dial up your in-store experience” and “be brilliant at the basics”.

“If you get your distribution model right and hone experiential retail, stores are vital,” he said. “[You need to] put interaction before transaction.”

It would seem Super Retail agrees with this approach. Supercheap Auto’s new customer experience centre in NSW’s Penrith, for example, features 24-hour parcel collection, 60-minute click and collect, Tesla electric vehicle charging, baby seat fitting, and nitrogen tyre inflation.

Birtles said this new experience-based format is a template for how Super Retail could do things across the rest of the Group.

While Walker acknowledged it is important for local retailers to be ‘Amazon-fit’, he said in overseas markets it had taken Amazon two to five years to really get going and explained that although Amazon’s US sales doubled in the last three years, its international sales growth hasn’t kept up.

Research conducted by RDG Insights revealed a disconnect between retailers’ fears about the Australian launch and customer intentions, Walker said. In fact, the survey showed “customers know the name but not the offer”, so Amazon will have to work hard to communicate with Australian consumers about its offering, particularly around Prime and Alexa.

Happily for local retailers, this means there is still time to plan for success in a post-Amazon world.


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