With #BreakingTheBias as its theme, The Iconic CEO, Erica Berchtold hopes this year’s International Women’s Day encourages everyone to reflect and consider if they are demonstrating bias at work and in life.

“It’s not easy to admit to yourself that you might be harbouring an unconscious bias of some kind, but it’s important that we do,” she told Retailbiz.

“If you realise you are, don’t give yourself a hard time about it – give yourself a hard time if you do nothing about it. Society is basically set up around men succeeding and being in leadership positions, so even as a woman you can easily have an unconscious bias towards other women and not even realise. As a woman you can even have an unconscious bias towards yourself – some people call this imposter syndrome, but I think it’s more complicated and even more subtle than the one explanation.

“My hope is that continued education, training and mentorship will be key drivers to understanding and breaking bias of all kinds (gender identity, age, race, religion, sexual preference, disability), because ultimately, real diversity leads to a stronger customer relationship and a better business.”

Berchtold steered The Iconic through the turbulence of the past two years, which she says has shown her the importance of agility and customer-centricity.

“When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, we knew it would be disruptive (and in some cases, devastating) for our team, customers and partners if we didn’t mobilise fast. To stay ahead of the curve, we had to assess the initiatives and innovations that we had previously, and in some instances reprioritise (or increase the priority), to ensure we could meet changing customer needs and wants throughout the pandemic,” she said.

The retailer bolstered its assortment across in-demand categories including loungewear, sport and activewear, launched new categories, including beauty, wellness and home, all while expanding its popular kids and toys offerings.

“We also adjusted our delivery offering – pioneering a first-to-market, same-day Saturday twilight service for our Sydney metro customers during extended lockdowns and periods of heightened demand.”

Challenging the status quo

“Instead of ‘why me? I’ve always asked myself ‘why not me?’,” Berchtold said.

“This has led to choices in my life and career that are not typically seen by society as ‘the norm’ and therefore challenge the status quo. Taking my first CEO role when I was 5 months pregnant with my third child, not being afraid to chat to Gerry Harvey in the work kitchen, starting my business career as a journalist so I’d learn how to communicate with people before spreadsheets – this is not your typical path.

“While I’ve never consciously set out to challenge the status quo, it’s happened, and as one of the few female executives in an industry that is mostly women, but run by men, there’s still a job to be done.”

Berchtold believes The Iconic is a good match for her as a young retailer that sets its own path and takes the lead on things that it thinks is important.

“Being one of the first retailers globally to launch our Considered Edit where you can shop by your sustainability values, launching an Adaptive Edit to better serve Australians and New Zealanders living with disabilities and other access needs, investing in recommerce with our partners AirRobe, I am glad to be a part of a business that aligns so closely with my own values,” she said.

What can we expect from The Iconic in the future on its path to becoming even more diverse and inclusive? The retail landscape in Australia in 2022 will see an even greater and more mainstream demand for shopping experiences that are sustainable and inclusive, according to Berchtold.

“For us, this will mean continuing on our journey as we lead the charge locally through developments such as building out our First Nations brand offering, expanding our Adaptive edit, growing our curation of sustainable products on site and an exciting new launch on the horizon.”