The retail sector has faced an uphill battle navigating a dynamic market following the onset of the pandemic. However, things are shifting and there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to Zebra Technologies director of sales, Brett Newstead.

“As the recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show, retail trade turnover in Australia rose by 1.8%  in February and 1.6% in January, which is significantly up from December’s fall of 4.1%,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“There were measures in the latest Federal Budget that are likely to contribute to a continued upward swing. For example, the proposed one-off cost of living payment is likely to boost the retail sector, while the tax cut measures for small businesses will see many retailers around the country breathe a little easier in the coming year.

“Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the $1 billion Technology Investment Boost opens the door for retailers to evolve in line with the market – an essential step to the sustainable health of the retail sector – in a more cost-effective manner.”

Unique pressures and opportunities faced by Australian retailers

Newstead believes the last two years, with Covid in play and the recent floods along the eastern seaboard, demonstrate a few of the potential challenges retailers in Australia face.

“The physical nature of much of the retail landscape in Australia comes with its own set of potential pressures. However, not all retail relies only on physical storefronts. Much of it is online, a channel that continues to grow swiftly in Australia,” he said.

“Even retailers with a traditional bricks and mortar background are finding their way to an omnichannel model that incorporates digital and online elements as well as the physical elements of a retail operation.

“The technology underpinning and enabling these changes, such as digital inventory systems, solutions for click and collect or portable payment devices, merchant software systems, even workforce management tools, play a role in helping retailers access and benefit from the opportunities available. Retail trade is growing, but the way it’s being done is also changing.”

The role of technology

Zebra has been a core technology partner for local retailers for many years, and Newstead has seen first-hand how technology can transform a retail business.

“In New Zealand, for example, hardware retailer Mitre 10 has implemented several solutions from Zebra’s Reflexis Systems business. Specifically, Mitre 10 took on the Reflexis Real-Time Task Manager, Reflexis Q-Walk and Reflexis Mobility,” he said.

“Together, these solutions have helped simplify the retail chain’s business operations and have enhanced its front-line communication to deliver a frictionless omnichannel customer experience with real time visibility back to their corporate office. These factors have played no small part to Zebra’s decision to launch its full suite of Reflexis solutions across APAC beginning with Australia and New Zealand.”

What’s next for Australian retailers?

Australia’s retailers have a lot to look forward to, according to Newstead, as the country grows in terms of population and the economy, so too will the retail sector.

“The future of Australia’s retailer landscape is a story of growth. But will this be true for everyone? Perhaps, with the right tools,” he said.  

“As is always the case, the fortunes to be made amid the market’s growth may not necessarily be evenly divided up within the retail market. There will be dominant players fighting it out at the big end of town and smaller players working to corner their own niche segments of the market as well.

“What will set these competing retailers apart from one another? Well, technology is likely to be one of the most compelling differentiators between those that make it and those that do not.”