The Sydney/Melbourne Chapter of the Institute of Store Planners (ISP) held a function earlier this month, hosted by mei + picchi at its Sydney showroom. Guest speaker was Glenys Shearer, commercial manager at The Just Group.

Glenys has worked for The Just Group for 24 years and says that to work in retail, and particularly in fashion retail, you must have a genuine passion for it. She says she is a real baby boomer who can’t say no to more responsibility when it is offered. She now looks after all the group’s stores in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

This includes around 785 stores covering six fashion brands, having begun 36 years ago when Craig Kimberley was travelling in the US and noticed a change in the marketing of jeans from hanging to stacked on shelves. Unable to ‘sell’ the concept to his then employer, Craig left and started Just Jeans with his brother and their respective wives.

As well as its acquisitions and overseas expansion, Glenys talked about The Just Group’s changes from public to private company, and then back to public with its re-listing in 2004. “There is a very different management culture when a company changes from private to public status,” she says.

Glenys says one of the bigger challenges in recent times has been to determine how best to talk to the consumer. “There isn’t much on tv, it’s harder to find the right magazine, and they don’t all use the internet. This has brought the focus back to shopping centres and store window displays,” she says.

“Abercrombie and Fitch are the best at that. You can tell because you can never buy what they have on torsos at the store front as they are sold out!”

Apart from The Just Group’s stated aim to be one of the world’s most exciting retailers, the company also aims to be a spectacular employer, something that is becoming harder and harder. A recent mention of the company in parliamentary EBA discussions as being one of the best employers in Australia was well earned praise.

The company has 20 buyers who travel the world to interpret fashion and visual merchandising trends for its own markets. With its national spread of stores The Just Group tests early for summer in northern Queensland, and for winter in Victoria and New Zealand. Every line and every sku is measured every day, and the company can respond rapidly to volumise popular lines.

Glenys says store fixturing is designed from an OHS point of view, for both the staff who work with it, and for customers. In 2005/06 the group had 110 stores which were either new, re-located or refitted.