Industry Focus – Retail

Posted by The Icehouse on 31/10/2023 12:00:00 AM

The latest industry focus from The Icehouse highlights the many challenges facing Kiwi retail business owners and how to solve them. 

Aside from building the business, running the daily operations, and setting the general vision and goals of the company, retail business owners face a unique set of challenges in 2023. 

Industry Focus – Retail

The sector is managing the aftermath of Covid amid fierce competition, changing customer behaviours and spending habits, while practical challenges such as trending up rent increases are a concern for bricks and mortar stores.

In an industry where the owners skills basket also requires agile inventory and stock management, innovative and strategic thinking around products and a good knowledge of sales and marketing, it’s clear retail owners, both online and offline, are under immense pressure.

The New Zealand retail market size was valued at $79.2 billion in 2021 (GlobalData) and in February 2022, the sector was classified as the ninth-highest grossing industry in Aotearoa. 

According to Stats NZ in 2022, retail trade comprised of 29,440 enterprises and 230,100 employees. Despite the impact of Covid, this resulted in a 4.9% increase from 2021.

The influential Retailing Now report by Retail NZ in 2019 stated: 'Nearly half of New Zealand's 27,759 retail businesses are owner-operators and employ no staff, while 345 large retail businesses employ over half of the retail employees across the nation.'

Pre and post Covid, a significant proportion of retail owners are having to do it alone, making the need for professional assistance all the more critical. 

"Coaching with [The Icehouse] allowed me to identify the aspects of the business which are good and the aspects of the business which need some work. Being self-employed, there is no accountability, so no one to answer to," says Gabby Kirk, Director and owner of Papier Hq.

Sole operators want someone to help them make an immediate impact on the bottom line and develop leadership skills as the business grows. Owners with larger teams want the same results, but on a larger scale.

'When I was promoted into the role (of General Manager of Retail at TrailLite), I was very clear that I wanted some form of leadership development programme as part of it," says Ashlee Rose, now founder of Pikle & Fawe and a Leadership Development Programme alumni. 

"I looked around a fair bit – I didn't just go to The Icehouse – and I did find some other programmes, but The Icehouse's Leadership Development Programme stood out as being the best, the one that covered the most variety of things and had the best community and the best learning."

Two objections we hear are: 'How can general business development courses work for me in such a specific area as retail?' and 'Why set aside money for a course when I can spend it on stock or sales and marketing?' 

It’s a good point, but many of our alumni feedback to us that one of the most significant 'a-ha' moments from participating in The Icehouse's range of programmes and workshops is the realisation that despite being from different industries, their cohorts all have the same challenges. The talent shortage, financial literacy gaps, establishing robust internal systems and processes and scaling the business are current headaches for all owners and leaders.

Retailers also want top-level guidance. Agnes Loheni, owner and Director of Mena International, explains that her Icehouse experience enabled her and the co-owners to develop a clearer understanding of their competitive advantages. 

"It was [also] really good to go back over the SWOT analysis, and the why. We really enjoyed those discussions because we have so much data in our business. 

"What is our secret sauce? What is it that differentiates us from our competitors? We hadn't done that exercise for a period of time. So it was good to do it again, in light of the new information that we've had from our customers with the new growth online." 

Tapping into specialist one-to-one business coaching is a real one-stop shop for many of our retail owner alumni, especially when the business coach has previous business retail ownership experience and has 'been there, done that'. 

"Kevin D'Ambros-Smith looked at our whole business practice. He helped us draw up things like cash flow reports. He helped us properly study our market and do our proper market research because I did not do that when we first started…” says Brett Fitzgerald, Co-Founder of Abeille Candles and an Icehouse Coaching alumni. 

"He looked at our website and helped us optimise that, our email marketing, and helped us cut costs where we did need to cut costs. He helped us get bundles on our website – that increased our average order value by 20%. Now he's helping us with the whole brand story for our new brand, which has been really exciting, and understanding the possibilities around this." 

The dynamic retail landscape empowers business owners to adapt, innovate, and thrive, ensuring long-term success and growth, but it’s a long and bumpy aisle. The big sell is that help is out there.

For information on programmes, workshops and business coaching services from The Icehouse, click here.

For more business ownership and leadership advice, check out more of our resources.

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