The ability to adapt and evolve is critical for success within retail. After three action-packed weeks at Australian Open 2024, we’re reflecting on our record-breaking results and the incredible innovation delivered by the retail team in what was our biggest tournament yet.

This year, we integrated several new ways of working, supported by technology from our workplace operations partner, SafetyCulture. These changes enabled us to improve communications, upskill staff and monitor performance across the tournament in real time. Combined with our use of ERP software, Pronto, to keep track of stock levels and sales, we delivered our strongest results to date.

Our biggest AO yet

The AO retail stores were vibrant hubs of activity as we welcomed a record 1.1 million fans to the event over three weeks. Anchored by the largest flagship store in the AO’s history – sprawling more than 1300 square metres – we catered to the diverse tastes of global and local fans, providing a broad range of retail products across 11 strategically located outlets.

The retail operations team expanded to a formidable force of 350 this year. Sales surged, with a boost to both onsite and online purchases. While operational complexity has grown significantly over the past 12 months, so has the commitment to excellence in training and support. Through meticulous team structuring and development of more than 35 tailored training modules, staff were equipped with the knowledge and skills to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

How tech supported our growth 

SafetyCulture’s unified platform helped improve coordination both within teams and between sites, enabling real-time updates and informed decision-making. All 11 stores across the precinct were equipped with customised checklists for opening and closing procedures, as well as bespoke training modules specific for each staff member and store.

Real-time communication functions allowed us to reach staff members at the right time, all from one central place. As the retail manager, I was able to visit our stores across the precinct, flag issues with store displays or hazards, notify teams when matches were finishing and more. This was a game changer, as it enabled us to manage crowd flow, stock levels and customer experience like never before – and also improved the experience of our workforce by increasing ease and efficiency. 

In the past, we used a complex system of two-way radio and mobile phones – meaning important messages were often missed across the various modes of communication. Our stock monitoring platform, Pronto, enabled us to check stock levels across our stores in real-time, so customers were always able to find what they needed. These integrated technologies enabled us to create our most responsive and knowledge-backed customer experience yet.

Our vision for AO 2025 and beyond

The vision for AO 2025 and beyond is anchored in a commitment to continuous innovation and a customer-centric approach. Further expansion and a bigger retail team is part of the vision to grow retail experiences beyond the ‘AO season’ in January. 

Further online expansion is planned, as is a focus on the global fan, to foster and build on the sense of belonging and camaraderie that fans feel when they step through the gates at Melbourne Park, enabling that loyalty to transcend geographical boundaries.

We know that success in retail isn’t only measured by numbers but by our team’s ability to adapt and innovate. The Australian Open’s retail journey so far exemplifies this, and we’re proud to continue bringing vision and technology together.

Jonathan Lee is retail manager at Tennis Australia.