Small retailers prepare for tough competition

New Zealanders are showing a greater appetite for e-commerce and as more international retailers open their doors across the country, smaller stores are bracing for challenging conditions.

Competition in New Zealand’s retail sector is on the rise. The arrival of large international chains, coupled with consumers’ growing love of online shopping, is changing the country’s retail landscape. Delivering a memorable customer experience has never been more important.

Retail sales data from Bank of New Zealand shows spending at local bricks and mortar stores rose by almost 5% year-on-year in August while online spending was up by 12% compared to the same time last year.

Jodi Linder, Managing Director and Executive Recruitment Consultant at retail recruitment group The Switch Agency, says there is solid demand for experienced retail candidates across both retail channels and increasing competition is putting top talent in the spotlight.

“There is more competition in the market from international players like H&M and Zara and that’s driving the need to deliver a better customer experience because that is where the key point of difference can be,” she says. “Online retailing is also growing and the customer experience is equally crucial in this area.”

The customer is king

A memorable customer experience provides a competitive edge for beauty retailer MECCA Brands. In addition to its smaller MECCA Cosmetica outlets, the Australian-based company recently expanded its presence in New Zealand with the launch its large-scale MECCA Maxima stores in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. The brand employs almost 2,300 people across it store network, distribution centre and support centre in New Zealand and Australia.

Helena Karlinder-Östlundh, Head of HR for MECCA Brands says the company looks for talented candidates who always put the customer first.

“The people who are most successful at MECCA and who love working here the most are definitely the ones that thrive on finding ways to do the right thing for the customer, even in imperfect circumstances,” she says.

Karlinder-Östlundh says an investment in employee careers also helps MECCA attract and retain the best talent.

“The lines between work and life outside work are so blurry these days, so MECCA takes the approach that we employ a whole person and it’s our responsibility to engage, support and develop that person not just for work but for life more broadly,” she explains. “We have a lot of young team members and they are predominantly female, so we feel a great sense of responsibility for helping them build their careers as well as their confidence and repertoire of transferable skills. It also helps that our team members truly love our products, our brands and our customers.”

Online shopping on the rise

In addition to its bricks and mortar store, MECCA sells more than 100 beauty brands through its online store, which ranks among New Zealand’s top ten beauty Google searches.

New Zealanders are increasing their e-commerce spend. Bank of New Zealand data shows spending at offshore online retailers rose by 14% year-on-year in August while purchases from local online stores was up by 10%.

Linder says a growth in online retail may be adding to demand for roles such as buyers and merchandisers. The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads for these roles grew by 59% and 24% respectively for the three-month period of July to September.

“There are more opportunities for styling roles within online stores,” says Linder. “There is also a greater demand for data analytics within the retail sector as well as inventory management and online store management.”

Selling your business to retail talent

In the competitive retail sector, Linder says companies need to focus on their employee experience as well as making sure their customers come first.

“In my experience, top talent wants to grow and they want to be stretched or challenged in new ways,” she says. “Employers can achieve this through ongoing training and development or career progression opportunities. For some businesses, that may not be an option, so then it's about giving people the chance to work on interesting projects or to add value in different ways.”

Culture is also a valuable selling point, adds Linder. “A good workplace culture means different things to different people, but the common theme is that they want to work somewhere where people are cared about,” she states.

As competition across the retail sector continues to grow, the customer experience will provide a valuable point of difference. Attracting top talent to deliver this experience will gives retailers a leading edge.

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SEEK Insights & Resources New Zealand

SEEK is the destination of choice for job-seekers and hirers in New Zealand, acting as the conduit between hirers looking to fill vacant roles and candidates looking for work across many and varied industries. SEEK's mission is to help people live...

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