The Australian retail sector is in the midst of its third major revolution in 50 years, says Myer CEO Bernie Brookes.

Brookes was among a panel of economic powerbrokers at a briefing in Melbourne this week.

The annual briefing, at Australian law firm Lander and Rogers, addressed the major challenges and opportunities facing the economy. 

Brookes spoke about the shifting sands of the retail landscape, from the 1950's and 60's, where there was a move from shopkeepers to self-selection of product in stores.

Then in the 1980's, the advent of technology saw the rise of price scanning as opposed to price marking, and payment forms such as eftpos enter Australia.

Now, the digital space is forcing retailers to make very significant change.

Brookes mentioned the traditional focus of a retailer was on price and its people.

Today, Brookes noted, "establishing a point of difference" was crucial.

He said important factors included a focus on exclusive and designer wear, data mining to understand purchasing trends, and the ability to quickly get product from 'runway to rack' in a few weeks.

This was in order to compete with international brands entering Australia such as H&M, Zara and Topshop.

Landers & Rogers partner John Wells noted their emphasis on CBD locations. 

"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of retailers vying for Australian retail space and we can expect this to continue.

"Having a bricks and mortar presence in key CBD locations is an advertisement for the importance of traditional retailing where online channels are increasingly used to push sales."

Brookes also stressed the importance of an omnichannel offer.

"Once you have a bricks and mortar presence such as a flagship store, you build up trust and recognition, and people are more comfortable about buying the product online.

"What we are now seeing is the advent of fully integrated retailers taking preeminent positions in the retail market," he said.

The Lander & Rogers Economic Briefing is an annual event held in Melbourne, and will be conducted in Sydney later this year.

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