Today, Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association talks about the need for Australian retailers to get online to capture sales, and the staffing costs that are currently affecting the industry.

What opportunities do you see for the electrical retailing industry?
Online retailing is becoming more prevalent in Australia, which is only sweetened for Australian retailers by the NAB’s findings that consumers prefer to purchase from Australian based online retailers.

The changing face of retail offers Australian retailers the opportunity to take a multichannel approach. That is, utilise online, mobile, tablet and in-store offers.

The secret for retailers is to ensure that they get the right mix, engage with their consumer and ensure they offer a value proposition — this may not be the ‘cheapest’ offer, but rather the offer that is wanted by their consumer.

For many consumers this may be price, while others might look for a great online experience on an impressive website that is easy to navigate and certainly easy to checkout and make their purchase. Other consumers will care more about customer service and the service experience both online and in-store and retailers that ensure an immediate response is sent to a customer’s online request will excel.

When it comes to a retailer’s traditional bricks and mortar store, it is imperative that ‘awesome’ customer service is provided and staff have expert product knowledge.

This will often mean retailers need to spend more on training and education for their staff. I imagine that the electrical retailing industry will see the same threats and have the ability to take advantage of the same opportunities.

What threats are currently present in the industry?
The biggest threat to any Australian retailer is the cost of staff and, in particular, penalty rates.

The minimum wage saw an increase of 2.6 percent in July, taking the Retail Employee Level 1 rate to $683.40 per week. Added to this, 1 July 2013 also saw employer superannuation contributions increase from 9 percent to 9.25 percent.

These added costs mean that in order for retailers to remain profitable they will need to cut costs in other areas, including the supply chain. The cutting of costs is becoming increasingly difficult for Australian retailers as the cost of utilities and rents are skyrocketing.

This article first appeared on