Good news for Aussie independent retailers

Aussie independent retailers are faring better than their overseas counterparts, according to data from retail management software leader Vend.

The first Retail Benchmarks Report says monthly revenue over the past 12 months was 18 per cent higher than the global average, showing a stronger spend for Australia’s local stores compared to overseas markets such as the UK, US and New Zealand.

It’s value over volume for Australian shoppers, says Dave Scheine, Vend country manager for APAC.

“Over the past year factors like a lack of household income growth and cautious consumption have impacted retail sales, so the data may be showing that shoppers are simply being more selective with where they shop and what they buy,” he explains.

Co-owner of local retailer TheSuperCool, Kate Vandermeer, says the increasing awareness of the environment around us has also ramped up demand for local products.

“We have reached an era where more people are aware of our eco footprint and that their buying power can make a change. There is much more awareness of conscious consumerism now: where is this product made? What's it made from? Do I really need it? Will it make my life better? Is this gift going to make my friend/family member happier and better off?

“So much more consideration is made before purchasing now. With a lot of the local brands we stock we share their stories through instore signage and online descriptions as well as through social media and our staff sharing info with customers has become more important than ever. 

“We were pleasantly surprised to see that so many Australians are supporting local as per the Vend Retail Benchmark Report. We can see the benefits at a grassroots level but we were really pleased that it’s also the case across other categories.” 

The growth of payment options such as buy now, pay later could also be encouraging spending on higher-value items, as shoppers are able to afford those purchases paid off over time, says Scheine.

“Our retail sector has seen a lot of change and disruption in the past year. So it’s encouraging to see these solid spending figures in comparison to other markets.”

Shoe stores, hobby and musical instrument stores, and office supplies, stationery and gift stores all saw stronger sales volumes compared to other retail store types in the past 12 months.

This has certainly been the case for Vandermeer, who started TheSuperCool with her husband 7.5 years ago as a mobile emporium of everyday objects.

“We moved from neighbourhood to neighbourhood showcasing our wares curated from across the globe and used the (at the time) unique concept of pop ups to add some theatre to retailing,” she enthuses.

“We used social media to drop hints as to where our next location would be to create a treasure hunt of sorts.

“Fast forward 7.5 years later and we have 30 pop ups under our belt, an online store and a flagship location at the South Melbourne Market where we have built a loyal following who love to hunt down the latest ‘supercool’ finds for gifts and innovative products for their space.”

Vandermeer says they have managed to grow their business by examining backend operations and making smarter decisions―downsizing warehousing, buying more frequently within a buying season rather than holding onto a lot of stock that's not moving, offering brands and products that are on trend or ahead of the curve with a conscious consumer focus, as well as training staff on the story behind the brands. 

“One of our biggest assets though is our customer loyalty program we use through Vend (our point-of-sale system) that rewards customers for frequent shopping. We feel that supporting and rewarding customers to continue shopping with us over other retailers and offering expert advice with great product is of huge benefit to our continued growth and success in a tough retail climate.”

By Marion Gerritsen