Go Team New Zealand Retail!

  • Opinion
  • February 18, 2016
  • Jonathan Elms
Go Team New Zealand Retail!
Kerryn Smith

I was part of the delegation representing the New Zealand retail industry, led by Mark Johnston, CEO of Retail NZ. The APRCE is one of the – if not the – largest retail industry events in the region. This year’s event was particularly well supported, with over 1,500 participates from the 18 members of the Federation of Asia Pacific Retailers Association (FAPRA).

The theme of the APRCE 2015 was ‘Asia Fast Forward’. This therefore played homage to the considerable growth and pace of change faced by the economies across the Asia-Pacific region. The event offered us – Team NZ Retail – a significant networking opportunity, whilst flying the flag for the best of the best of what New Zealand retail has to offer the world. Our participation at the event also signaled the New Zealand retail industry’s sustained and enduring commitment to our major trading partners and to our shared support in meeting our collective objectives and mutual interests.   

The latest developments and most pressing issues faced by the retail industry both regionally and globally were discussed and debated in detail. This included a series of excellent presentations delivered by industry leaders and commentators. My personal highlights included insights from Vikram Sharma from The Walt Disney Company, who talked about the power of the Disney brand and the possibility of branding in retail more broadly. In part, this is because I’m still a kid at heart and Vikram re-ignited my love for Mickey Mouse, and because Disney owns the license for Marvel, and Marvel is cool! Another notably presentation was delivered by Katsumi Kubota, the COO of Uniqlo – Fast Retailing Philippines, Inc, who talked the audience through Uniqlo’s impressive success outside of its Japanese home market. I do have to send my apologies to Mr Kubota as I continually attempted to plead with him, after multiple glasses of wine at the gala dinner, to bring Uniqlo to New Zealand because I was running out of polo shirts. Of course, there were many other excellent speakers who shed light on different issues and concerns confronting retailers operating in the region, and multiple examples of best (and bad) practice.

The need for retailers, regardless of their size and their country of operations, to constantly innovate and embrace change in order to survive and thrive was a reoccurring topic of debate and consideration. Not surprisingly, particularly given what seems like the almost daily announcement that a new overseas retailer is planning to enter the New Zealand marketplace, many of the presenters also underscored the pressures and prospects of operating in a globalised business environment. This led Mark Chi of Primer International Management Ltd (Singapore) to conclude that many retailers in the Asia-Pacific region, as elsewhere, are “thinking globally, acting locally, and panicking internally”. The challenges and opportunities of conducting business in the digital age were also subject to extensive discussion. These were very neatly summarised by a very British Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), UK.

What was surprising was the sheer number of discussions from delegates from all around the region focusing on the continued need to develop high quality training and educational programmes in retail management to help professionalise the industry, and promote retail a career of choice. Encouragingly, the efforts of the likes of ServiceIQ (who were also part of Team NZ Retail), as well as the introduction of Massey University’s retail degree, the Bachelor of Retail and Business Management (BRBM), New Zealand was mooted as an example of best practice in this regard. This led to discussions of how these initiatives could be internationalised to other countries in the Asia-Pacific. Watch this space.

This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 741, December 2015 / January 2016.

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