06 December 2017   

5 min read
Three-time winner of the Australian Retail Association’s (ARA) independent retailer of the year award, winner of the Australian Surf Industry Awards independent retailer of the year for three consecutive years and NSW retailer of the year for six consecutive years, Wilson Retail is bucking retail trends in regional NSW. Anthony Wilson, owner of the very successful Saltwater Wine and Stormrider surf/skate stores, joins us again to share what goes into remaining a thriving independent retail business with the legs to weather the ups and downs in retail.
In the last In Conversation you talked about the importance of providing a diverse product range, is that still the case?

Definitely, we curate our product selections to suit our trade zones from industry leading global brands. “Global: Local” is how we frame it. Our friends and customers are voting with their wallet every day and our amazing buying team study and interpret that voting to determine future orders and budgets.

 

Surf / skate shops have always been about more than selling products – they’ve been a community space for participants to hang out in. Do you think this is a business model that other retailers are now starting to follow?

I think we, as a society, and our wants and needs are changing quickly. Because we embrace the subcultures of surf and skate we have an advantage connecting with our community and that’s hard to replicate. There are a few exceptions but most of the national apparel retailers I see are purely transactional.

 

What do you think makes a brand successful?

Discipline. Knowing what you’re about and sticking to it. Meeting demand, not over supplying it. I think Doug Stephens, a US commentator and author of Reengineering Retail really nails it in a recent twitter post when he says "The bottom line is that if your brand is so uninspiring ten months out of the year that you have to slash your prices, degrade your brand and abuse your employees in the last two months to make your numbers you’re dead already. You just don’t know it yet."

There has been a lot of price competition in the retail industry in the past 12 months. What are your thoughts on competing on price?

Building on what Doug Stephens says, it’s a race to the bottom. For us, we are very protective around our brand perception and we don’t have end of season sales at all. My strategy is to continually move aged inventory throughout the year with stepped markdowns. From what I’ve heard Culture Kings has a similar philosophy. I know most or all of the national traders build promotions into their model but from a consumer point of view it’s just a transaction. There’s no experience and all you are doing is training your consumer to wait for the sale or promotion. I think the consumer becomes cynical and full price becomes a furphy. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

How has your business evolved and innovated to remain fresh in an increasingly competitive environment?

We continually look to improve every aspect of our offer, from brand and products, fit out and store design, customer service to systems and processes. Some are quick to action and others are a longer road to hoe.

 

How do you think retailers can survive the online shopping revolution?

I can’t remember who said it but it stuck in my head when I heard it - “people shop online to save time and money, people shop offline to spend time and money.” The physical environment has got to be all about the experience. That’s pretty simplistic and obviously we need to be where our friends and customers are. Having said that, online can’t replicate the physical experience and the warm fuzzies that a good store connection can create.

How can businesses create a product that customers want?

Don’t over supply and don’t over promote.

 

What are the top three things that go into creating a thriving retail business?
  1. Look after your people
  2. Walk in your customers’ shoes
  3. Measure your service delivery - we mystery shop every store every month

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