The centre is a training facility which will enable up to 250 people to be trained simultaneously. It also has linkable audio-visual and wireless capability.
CEO Mark Powell says the group is committed to changing the public perception of retail as a career and supporting its employees in accessing training and qualifications. At the opening ceremony, he said that often, those who wore uniforms from The Warehouse, Noel Leeming, Warehouse Stationery and other retailers were perceived as “not really in a career” and “just doing something while you’re waiting to do something else.”
“We’re well aware of the common misperception that retail is poorly paid, boring and not really a career, but we are leading our industry to change this negative and inaccurate reputation.”
He said retail was a “great” career as it was many-faceted. Many roles dealt with the public in a customer services capacity, but there were also options for those interested in supply chain, online, marketing and HR, which The Warehouse Group has renamed “people support.”
Powell said he hoped that when he retired, the group would be steered by a CEO who had joined the group’s Red Shirts in Schools programme at secondary school level.
Asked what The Warehouse Group could provide for ambitious young employees seeking a career in retail, Powell said it offered a more structured path than independent retailers.
“In many businesses the path isn’t clear. [Here], they can see if they do certain things, they’ll get on.”
Powell said different personalities suited different aspects of retail, but the common attributes of a good employee were: a willingness to work hard, relationship skills, critical thinking skills, and good organisational awareness.
“It’s not an industry where you can get by just giving a good Powerpoint. We’re focused on execution, on doing things.”
Tindall emphasised the importance of learning on the job when he spoke about his own career, saying he was drawn to “the excitement of retail” at a young age. He said he chose to stretch out his degree in management over five years rather than three so that he could continue to work and gain practical experience.
He called for a structured programme for on-the-job training similar to that of Switzerland’s, saying the Swiss had virtually zero youth unemployment due to this arrangement.
“Having been through it personally, I can subscribe to it and I think it’s a fantastic idea.”
He read out a letter from Steven Joyce, who is Minister for Economic Development, Science and Innovation and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, in support of the new centre. In it, Joyce said the centre was an example of Tindall’s commitment to his staff and to retail as a career.
Asked for his predictions about the future of retail, Tindall said digital channels would play a more important part, but he felt it would eventually strike a balance with bricks and mortar stores.
“If I was a betting man, I would say digital will eventually occupy around one third of retail, with bricks and mortar taking up two thirds of the market.”
Powell and Tindall congratulated 17 employees who had gained NZQA National Certificates in Retail Level 2 and 3 qualifications through partner ServiceIQ.
Twenty five team members from across The Warehouse Group have been sponsored to enroll in Massey University’s new Bachelor of Retail and Business Management degree, which started in February. It has 61 students enrolled.