Wilkinson, the managing director of First Retail, says succession is crucial to success.
“All of the retail sector needs to think of some succession – building the quality of your team so that you have management of the future,” he says.
“Succession is a big, big issue for the whole of the retail industry; we’ve got to work on improving the skill levels.”
Succession is especially important in the retail world of today, which faces changing customer expectations, Wilkinson says.
“Once upon a time it was very easy to explain to staff about customer service. Today it’s focused on customer experience – it’s not just hard skills of following procedure but soft skills of relationship building and goodwill.”
These skills are not something that can be taught in a classroom or through a manual, he says.
“You learn on the job.
“These skills are quite localised too. The soft skills that you may need in Invercargill maybe different to Ponsonby central,” he says.
“Relationships can be very different in different parts of New Zealand.”
Countdown is one New Zealand retailer which has a good succession plan, Wilkinson says.
The supermarket chain offers a two-year business leadership programme, which allows graduates to gain real-world operational experience in commercial and buying roles. It also has apprenticeships in its bakeries and butcheries.