By Aimee Chanthadavong

Owners and managers of retailers including Dick Smith, Myer, David Jones, Woolworths and Rebel Sport are among some of top 25 finalists in the running for the National Retail Association Young Retailer of the Year title.

This year will be the 40th anniversary of the NRA Young Retailer of the Year Award, which recognises the talents of individuals under the age of 25 working in retail.

NRA CEO Trevor Evans said he was inspired by the diversity and talent amongst this year’s finalists.

“Retail is no longer confined to the bricks and mortar traditions of customer service and product knowledge; it has become a sector guided by multiple channels, complex consumer demands and ever-changing industry regulation,” he said.

“Retail is certainly evolving, and these future leaders have demonstrated that, to compete and prosper in this challenging market, you must be savvy in all areas.”

One of the finalists is George Drivas, a franchisee of The Coffee Club in Brisbane International Airport who has been working for The Coffee Club brand since 14-years-old.

“I started down at the bottom as a little dish pig cleaning the dishes before managing that store and then I moved to the Carindale Coffee Club and managed that for a bit but soon after I worked in the head office. When I was there, I used my experience in operations to help design Coffee Club stores. I worked there for roughly two years and the opportunity to open up in an airport came about things have been trading well since,” he told RetailBiz.

Drivas admitted that while times have been tough, his business has constantly thrived on providing fast customer service within a fast-paced environment. “I strive on customer service and we have a captive audience so for us that means six hours of rush hour service. I’ve set target for my kitchen and front of house staff to take no more than three minutes to make coffee and no more than 10 minutes to make food because people are always rushing to catch a flight. To hit budget is to be the fastest.”

Similarly, Emma Knox-Niven, Diva Queensland state manager, has been working in retail since a teenager and believes that being a finalist of the NRA Young Retailer Award shows hard work pays off.

“I guess for me this is really exciting and it does mean a lot. Since 14 year 9 months old I’ve worked my way up in the industry. I never studied or did any courses. It just really shows what is achievable in retail and what you can achieve without having to complete any study,” she said.

The winner of the NRA Young Retailer of the Year will be announced on July 31 in Melbourne where they will be awarded a place on the Westfield World Retail Study Tour next year.