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Retail Big Conversation: Understanding your competitive advantage

by Chris Barr

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When competition in your sector ramps up a notch, the smartest organisations respond by putting their people first. Six Degrees Executive Retail Recruitment Manager Chris Barr discusses Retail talent with Andrew Tindal, Regional Managing Director at Aldi.

Aldi now claims roughly 13 per cent of the $100 billion Australian grocery industry across over 500 outlets, much to the concern of executives at Woolworths, Coles and IGA. The supermarket’s growth story is impressive, but Aldi is now facing disruption from other German-owned discount supermarkets including Kaufland and Lidl.

According to Andrew Tindal, Aldi’s Managing Director for the Minchinbury Region, the supermarket has one major advantage that will help it stay ahead of this new wave of competitors – its people.     

“You’re only as good as the people that surround you and the people you lead”, Andrew says. “And by ‘lead’, I mean serve. People are capable of so much – it’s up to leaders to ask themselves how they can help their team members be the best they can be.

“You can’t take staff for granted. They are your competitive advantage and often the reason customers continue to shop with you.”

What makes Retail a top career destination for ambitious professionals?

When Andrew runs Aldi’s assessment centres for Area Managers, he spends an hour telling each group what they are getting into should they join Aldi – with zero sugar-coating.

“I tell them that if they’re not team-oriented, if they’re not leaders, if they like absolute structure in their day with no surprises, if they don’t like process, if they don’t like hard work and don’t have ownership, then don’t apply. But if all of the above excites them, then jump on board!

“If you do jump on board”, says Andrew, “and discover that retail is for you, then you’ll find the career satisfaction and opportunity is significant and varied. You won’t be sitting in oak-panelled offices or billing by the hour. You’ll be living day-to-day in the space many people go to out of necessity. It’s challenging, rewarding and fun.

What key skills are necessary for a career in Retail?

Retail skill-sets can be difficult to define as the sector is such a broad church, with work available in logistics, operations, buying, marketing and property to name just a few areas.

“There’s no one technical skill-set for retail”, comments Andrew. That being said, must-have capabilities include:

  • Teamwork and leadership: For yourself first, then for others.
  • Resilience: Retail is a fast-moving environment where things can (and will) go wrong. You need to be resilient to overcome fire, theft, personnel issues, customer complaints and more.
  • Decision-making: You need to be able to assess the situation and make a decision – then stand by it!
  • Delivering business outcomes: At the end of the day you need to add value to your employer by understanding and supporting the desired business outcomes. In other words, you must be able to make things happen.

What advice do you have for people beginning their career in Retail?

“Understand what it is that you truly value in your career”, says Andrew. “Do not go into something because you think it pays well, is cool, or because your friends are doing it. If it doesn’t match what you value, you ultimately won’t like it.

“Apply yourself; work hard, but don’t burn out. Remember work-life balance – you can’t work well if your mind, your body – or both – are neglected.”

Andrew also stresses the importance of flexibility. “Careers have many twists, turns and varied requirements to achieve the success you desire. A rigid, inflexible approach will almost certainly let you down.

“And finally, never stop learning. You might think that finishing school or university means it’s time to begin work and not to learn any more, but this is not the case. You should never stop learning – do so at your career’s peril.”

 

Speak to Chris Barr and the Six Degrees Executive Retail recruitment team to learn more about attracting and retaining top talent in retail.