Chris Wilkinson is the managing director of First Retail, a retail consultanting, planning and strategy company.
1. Who’s your pick for retail “personality” of the year? Who’s someone who stood out and made some bold and smart moves? Rod Duke for playing the strategic game with Kathmandu. He saw a clear opportunity to pick something up which would be a fairly good value for infrastructure, IP and stockholdings. While he didn’t succeed, his pitch and perspective on it was very smart. Its continued evolution of his business. He’s not content to sit within a certain category, he's keen to look where opportunities lies.
2. Which retail company stood out in 2015? I'm liking Animates for their store formats, merchandising and very integrated customer journey and relationship. They are delivering a great exemplar.
3. Who are some ones to watch in 2016? Smith's City has a new leadership team, fresh energy and determination to keep building on its solid base. We think they will be quiet achievers and could take the decisive lead in terms or trusted in the furniture and appliance field after. Watch too for those in the hot nesting categories, such as Palmers. Gardening is cool again and dare we even say, sexy, so expect to see further innovation from them. Palmers Planet is a taster!
4. Who are some great smaller town or regional retailers who punched above their weight? We think Kilt is one that is doing an exceptional job in the regions.
5. Who had the biggest fall from grace in 2015? Biggest fall from grace has been between Kathmandu and Dick Smith. This may leave some big holes in the retail landscape.
6. Best retail innovation? Some of the very smart stuff that Glenn at Spike HQ is doing around loyalty, automation and other smarts.
7. Most overhyped issue or innovation in retail that actually didn’t matter that much? Jury is out on the iBeacon. We think it's got legs in the longer term - particularly for those retailers who have very dedicated and regular customers (such as vehicle, shirt, suit and high end clothing retailers).
8. What property area in New Zealand was the most interesting and dynamic for retail and why? Queenstown's 5 Mile is a fascinating dynamic as it opens to cater for the massive growth in the Whakatipu basin. In some ways it's a chicken and egg situation, as the scale now is preparing for future growth. Interesting also as chain stores in Queenstown often end as fulfillment partners - when many purchases are made from those in Auckland - with holiday homes in the resort region.
9. What issues/ideas should retailers have at the front of their mind for 2016? Understanding and implementing best practice in omnichannel is the biggest focus all retailers should have. Given the amount of purposeful (decisions made ahead of store visit) shopping, retailers need to be on radar, on message and delivering an exceptional experience online.
10. What's the most vulnerable town or city for retail at the moment? Wanganui and Lower Hutt. Both are very challenged and in need of specialist help.