I can't say that I've done a great deal of blogging - something I intend to change from right about now - but setting up the new blog on our website, I thought it might be fun to re-visit some of those old posts to see what might have changed.
Here is my very first blog post, fresh from London in 2011...
G'day Sydney shops!
Well, as an avid shopper and dedicated retail anorak, imagine my excitement arriving in such a beautiful city with all those new and wonderful shops to explore!
Then imagine my shock and horror when I see how unfathomably expensive EVERYTHING is!
Don't get me wrong, I'm no stranger to expensive shopping trips and have become positively intimate with Selfridges, Liberty and the host of gorgeous independents in and around London - and I've unfortunately never been blessed with the economic shopper gene.
What I mean is, that aside from Sydney's high-end equivalents of the above, everything else seems to be expensive too! Even the 'low' budget, every-day stuff seems to be staggeringly over priced.
I guess us Brits have become pretty demanding shoppers of late - we want great quality, we want style - but we want to pay a fair price. Competition has certainly been tough in recent years and many old favourites have fallen by the wayside. Every retailer in the UK has had to change and consider their position and proposition very carefully - and the competition has become fierce. Being just good has become nowhere near good enough - and as British shoppers [I now realise] we really take that for granted.
I don't think that kind of revolution has happened here yet. I wonder if it will...
Now, I don't mind paying whatever I can afford for something really special, but I certainly do object to paying too much routinely for cheap-looking product.
I've never been a great fan of Tesco or Asda for clothing [Sainsbury's quality is far superior, but that's a digression for another day] - it may look a little on the cheap side, but guess what? IT IS!
Shopping for my children is the most frustrating. Let's take a basic kid's long sleeved top at the lower end of the UK market. You know it will only last a few washes, but hey, it'll probably cost you the equivalent of $7. Over here [or is it under here?] in places like Big W or Target, the same top [though in some cases, not such good quality] will cost you $30! [around £20].
I can understand that imported brands and products would be more expensive, but I'd really love to know why, when so many products, where ever they are sold, are sourced from the far east, with similar cost prices, where these rediculous retail price points are coming from? I know wage costs are much higher here, but rents and rates seem to be comparable.
I guess I could go on all day about this, but I'll leave it for now and pray to the god that inspired Next to deliver to Australia.
So, 5 years on, what has changed?
Well, quite a bit, actually. Revolution might be too strong a word. Though possibly it may have felt like that for the home grown retailers, I don't think consumers have seen it that way - things have on the surface changed slowly and subtly.
Since that first post above, Australia has had to withstand an influx of international retailers that must have felt like an invasion, including H&M, Zara, TopShop, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Willams Sonoma, COS, Uniqlo and many more seem set to jump on the bandwagon.
I'm sure it must have been alarming, however I do feel the overall result has been a positive one and the smart Aussie retailers have more than risen to the challenge. This kind of competition is a good thing - it prevents retailers getting complacent and the shoppers get a better deal all round.
Pricing has certainly settled down across the board and especially in the value sector with [in my opinion] Kmart strongly taking the lead with fantastic on-trend products in all departments that are so affordable I find it impossible to come out of there empty handed!
One concept I feel Australian retailers [in the main] do need to grasp is the idea of first price - right price, demonstrated by the international players, as opposed to inflating opening price points to maintain margin when they are discounted a few weeks later. This seems to be a culture that is deeply ingrained so it will take some time to move away from 'the way it has always been'.
Having now worked with some retailers in this market I've been staggered at the high intake margins compared with the UK. I might explore this a little more in another post as it's so closely aligned with brand value and integrity, which I'm passionate about.
All in all, I'm delighted with the way the retail market is progressing in Australia and shopping has once again become a pleasurable experience. And shopping for the kids? Well, I can now get that $7 t-shirt in any number of places - so everyone's happy!