Annual Retail Lunch

The Future of Retail

15 June 2017

The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in association with Nora and Afterpay were delighted to host nearly 400 guests at “The Future of Retail” lunch yesterday. Paul Greenberg, Chairman of Nora, moderated a panel of the biggest names in retail: Peter Allen, CEO of Scentre Group; Catherine Harris AO PSM, Chair of Harris Farm Markets; and Hilton Seskin, Owner of Glue and Founder of Rebel Sports.

The panel explained the difficulties of the retail market with the advent of online merchants, but insisted that retailers with a physical presence continued to perform well. They also spoke of the collaborations necessary for retail to survive.

Retail is as tough as it has been in years as discounting from rivals and completion from online merchants has smashed margins. “We’re going to have a rough ride for a period of time,” said Seskin, who led TopShop’s Australian franchisee, which entered voluntary administration in May and who also brought JD Sports to Australia in April, “Retail is exceptionally tough. I’ve never seen it this tough”

Australian consumers aren’t broke but are being more selective about the products they buy, according to the man in charge of the country’s Westfield shopping centres. Peter Allen says the mood among consumers is still “pretty good”, with traditional retail sales continuing to rise despite pressure from online outlets such as Amazon. “What we are seeing is a continual growth of retail sales across the portfolio, the consumer really isn’t broke, they still have money and they are being a lot more selective in what they are buying.” “Findings from the US and the UK show retailers with a physical presence continued to perform well despite the presence of the rapidly growing online rival”, Mr Allen said.

Harris Farms Markets co-founder Catherine Harris, spoke of the important shift landlords need to make today in order to keep retail afloat. She said landlords today were constantly collaborating rather than dictating to their tenants. “I find that centres want to genuinely help retailers. That’s a huge change from 10 years ago when landlords said they were the boss.”