Australia’s leading party retailer the Party People shares with Retailbiz the story behind their success after winning three consecutive awards this month.

Founded almost 30 years ago by Mala Salakas, then “Patches the Clown” at children’s parties, the Party people has since risen to incredible success. With Mala’s children, now the co-directors, once teased at school because their mum was a clown, they have today been named the best independent retailer in the country.

This week the Party People took out three consecutive titles at the Australian Retail Awards – the 2018 Retail Leader Of The Year, Online Retailer Of The Year and Independent Retailer Of The Year.

But it took decades of hard-work and vision to take this once small family business to the empire it is today. It was Salakas’ passion for parties that led her to open a small party store with her father which grew into the empire it is today after being taken on in 2007 by her sons Dean and Peter Salakas.

After pioneering the businesses omnichannel direction, the Party People rose to fame where today it has over 40 employees and is the market leader for party supplies online in Australia with two bricks and mortar stores of which one of them is the largest bricks and mortar party store in Australia.It was this digital direction which took the brand to widespread success – with the two brothers being one of the first retailers to offer click and collect and subsequently being Googles first Australian AdWords customer and Microsoft Bings first Australian advertiser as well as piloting Facebooks accelerator program.

Dean Salakas, co-director of the Party People told Retailbiz that it was this change in direction that really propelled the brand into the spotlight.

“With online we’ve always been a pioneer and continue to pave new ground there and try new things,” he said. “When we first launched and took over the business in 2007 we did so because we thought we would take over the world with online and we really did accelerate when we took over,” he said.

“We saw growth from that day, went big online. I don’t know when the pinch point was but I would say couple of years in, when we opened our Drummoyne store and did a million in first year.

But with the increasing important of in-store sales, the Party People were also acclaimed for their omnichannel approach. It’s the widespread offering of the stores that has helped push it into success.

“It’s about understanding the customer and giving customers what they value. Finding out what’s the most important thing for them so we offer huge ranges, lots of products. Our store is the biggest one in Australia because our customers demand a range.”

With online accounting for 8 per cent of sales, Dean said he decided for brick-and-mortar to become “a key focus” for the retailer but that “both compliment each other and you need both to win.”

It’s Dean’s tireless efforts to contribute to the retail sector that saw him win the Retail Leader of the Year title.

“That’s about speaking at events, writing for the ARA and other publications. And overtime people ask me to write something, I always say yes.”

More recently, the brothers have started working on a world first scan and go technology that will allow our customers to scan their products and leave the store without visiting the checkout. The technology is set to be rolled out this week at a pop up store for Halloween just out the front of Paddy’s Markets Haymarket in Sydney.

And it’s only upwards and onwards from here, with whisperings from inside the company of potential franchise opportunities.

“I can’t say too much about the next 12-18 months but we are looking at opening more stores and in the next 6-12 months we’re looking at franchising as part of our strategy.”