Australian department stores ripe for disruption, warns M&C Saatchi retail leader

As M&C Saatchi begins to roll out its fresh take on Woolworths, and the brand itself promotes smaller Metro stores in CBD locations, the head of the agency’s retail division has warned that Australian department stores are ripe for disruption.

John LewisHoward Spreadbury, M&C Saatchi’s head of retail, told the Australian Institute of Marketing CX Marketing Summit that the retail sector most ready to be disrupted by new thinking was Australia’s department stores, tiered by the likes of Myer and David Jones.

He said Australia lagged behind the US and UK in creating experiences in stores that engaged consumers in a way that was happening overseas.

“If you look at what is happening in Australian retail versus in the States or the UK, we don’t have the John Lewis or the Selfridges or the Harvey Nichols here,” Spreadbury said.

Howard Spreadbury says Australian department stores ripe for disruption

Howard Spreadbury: Australian department “stores ripe for disruption”

“For me that department store category is something that is ripe for innovations and also ripe to make some profit.”

He also said that the sector needed to avoid becoming too focused on the rise of online retailing and the rise of boutique retailers, and that it was far from a dying category.

“Some research that I’ve looked at still says that 95% of purchases are still made through a retail establishment,” he said.

“They often look to combine what’s happening from a fiscal retail point of view with online but from my point of view I still think retail is strong.”

Spreadbury said that at M&C Saatchi he often tapped into its division Tricky Jigsaw, which works on product development and innovation.

“They tend to be specialists within the analysis and segmentation of how customers behave from the journey-mapping point of view.”

M&C is in the midst of refreshing the image of Woolworths after winning the account earlier this year.

At the same time the retailer is pushing its own innovation with the opening of smaller, CBD-based Metro stores to cater to commuters and the rising number of inner-city apartment dwellers in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.


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