“Retail is one of the most vibrant, energetic, changing, diverse, interesting subjects I can possibly think of,” Dr Jonathon Elms says.
Via Scotland and Singapore, New Zealand has gained a world-class retail educator in Dr Elms, who recently moved to Auckland to run the Massey University Bachelor of Retail and Business Management.
The course is developed in partnership with some of New Zealand’s biggest retailers, and Elms holds the Sir Stephen Tindall Chair in Retail Management, funded by The Warehouse Group.
He finds this collaborative approach startling.
“Very different businesses, even businesses that compete with each other are saying, ‘Yes we compete, but to innovate we need to work together in some way for the benefit of everyone involved,’ and for me that’s really striking.
“I think it’s very forward thinking on behalf of the retail industry in New Zealand.”
Elms says as consumer confidence starts to bounce back from the recession, companies big and small need to be doing whatever they can to reinvent.
“All retailers regardless of size need to innovate. Without innovation they will go out of business very, very quickly.
“Past reputations can’t be seen as the key for future success. Companies need to be doing things different, newer, better than they ever have in the past.”
Most importantly, retailers have to harness the power of branding.
Where retailers were once just “storage facilities,” this is no longer sufficient.
“Retailers are becoming brands, they’re becoming household names,” Elms says.
“A brand is a set of emotions and values, and the most successful have a history, have a clear and concise image that they portray through all their operations, all the employees are aware of what it is.”
And if that matches with the spirit of the time and what consumers want, the business is liable to be successful, Elms says.
This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 736, March 2015.