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Editor's view: The year of international retail

  • Opinion
  • March 8, 2016
  • Sarah Dunn
Editor's view: The year of international retail

From a retail media perspective, 2015 has been all about international commerce. It was the year the world came to New Zealand – swarms of foreign retailers opened up shops across the country; local consumers wore out their keyboards hitting up Amazon, Asos, The Iconic and Book Depository, while many Kiwi retailers learned the internet is useful for more than just replacing the Yellow Pages as they fielded interest online from distant markets.

One of The Register’s strangest stories of 2015 saw US payments processor PayPal unilaterally suspend Kiwi online paleo supermarket Dalson Foods’ credit card facilities over a line of Iranian dried fruit – its argument being that selling Iranian goods is illegal under US law. The United States has had an embargo on trade with Iran since 1995.

Is PayPal’s decision fair? It’s very hard to tell – Dalson Foods’ managing director Jason Buckley feels companies should operate within the laws of the country they’re working in, while a representative from the American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand says PayPal’s behaviour is justified as it would have handled customer payments relating to the Iranian fruit in the US. 

These are considerations that, before the internet, would only have been relevant to multistore chains operating internationally, yet Dalson Foods is a start-up with no official office and a staff of two. I believe the geopolitical complexity of this situation is likely to become more familiar as Kiwi retailers get more involved in global commerce. This is what retail of the future looks like, at least for some.

To make another prediction, in 2016 I expect New Zealand retailers to become more adept at using bricks and mortar stores to appeal to shoppers in their immediate surrounds, while others, like Dalson Foods, will use ecommerce to nail ultra-niche markets. Some of these markets will be outside New Zealand – which is only fair, really.

Also, a quick note for retail managers: Many students and young people will be entering the retail industry for the first time this summer as temporary staff members. Holiday jobs are many peoples’ first taste of retail, and those entering the industry this way should be supported and mentored appropriately, no matter how brief their contract. A junior’s experience on your shopfloor could inspire them to choose retail as a career, or it could send them and their talent packing as soon as term time rolls around. Think back to your first retail job and be kind!

This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 741 December 2015 / January 2016

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