By Aimee Chanthadavong

Relevance, personalisation, globalisation, localisation, price deflation and polarisation are among some of the transitions the retail industry is facing, according to Sue Anderson, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) Retail Institute director of programs.

Speaking at Retail Conference 2013 in Sydney on Tuesday, Anderson said these changes are “inspiring” chapters within the retail industry that is creating “opportunities but also pain points”.

“Consumers have changed,” she said.

“We have winners and losers of the games. The people in control are no longer the wholesaler, it’s not the retailer, but it’s now the customer. The transition we’re all making is quite empowering but it’s also quite challenging for some to be able to manage their way through it.”

However, Anderson listed retailers like Hollister, Shoes of Prey, J.Crew, Coles and Patagonia as examples of businesses who are have already taken a creative approach to meet these changing needs of consumers.

“Customers are saying ‘step up industry, give me something a little more exciting’,” she said.

“For us that mean we can get really close and enjoy the opportunities and look towards international excellency for inspiration.”

Other changes the industry has seen is the relationship retailers have with customers.

“It’s now called the ‘me’ business where retailers need listen to their customers but it’s also the ‘we’ business where retailers and customers are collaborating together. But at the same time retail has also become the ‘c-business’ where all transactions are happening on the couch.”

According to Anderson, retailers need to focus on driving personalisation, which means size is no longer relevant, pointing to Billabong’s recent situation as a testament to that.

“Consumers will be looking at the level of convenience they can gain out of their shopping experience, the value equation of a products, the quality of services, the uniqueness of the products and take-away stories as critical elements to their entire shopping experience,” she said.

“This presents a challenge for many of us because their demands are higher but that means we need to connect with our customers, which is a win, and needed to keep ahead of the game, which is what sits at the core of the relationship.”