Ragtrader Fashion Industry Award winner, Cue Clothing Co. executive director Justin Levis talks career highlights and challenges.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Being part of a family-owned business, I started my career very early!
I think I was 12 years old when I first did work experience in the dispatch department of Cue.
I then worked on and off with the company, mostly in the finance department, while completing my university studies.
While I was studying and working for the stock exchange, I spent time at Cue setting-up and establishing our New Zealand business with my father.
It was a pivotal moment in the 90s that initiated my future role in the company.
What were the biggest challenges in the early days of your career?
I started my full-time career at Cue in the early 90s as the state manager overseeing our NSW retail teams.
One of the positive challenges I found was internal competitiveness.
We’ve always had a strong retail team that are passionate about their careers.
When I started, our leading VIC state manager was absolutely determined to beat me in NSW, where I was determined to be the number one state.
Let’s just say a little bit of healthy competition kept me on my toes!
Due to the booming sales we then had the challenge of opening and refurbishing hundreds of stores!
What challenges do you face now and how do you overcome them?
Aside from the daily ups and downs of business, the most significant challenge is the impact of COVID-19 on our business.
Like many industries, the major challenge we’ve faced is the lengthy closures of 60% of our retail stores throughout the last two years.
We overcame these challenges by remaining adaptable to change and innovating how we trade.
We’ve promoted new technologies, such as our virtual ‘Book a Stylist’ appointments and shifted our team’s focus to drive sales online.
We’ve seen a massive spike in our online sales results during this period, although not enough to counteract the short fall at retail. It’s been tough!
Cue summer campaign 21
Production has been severely hampered by the virus with many of our factories forced to close for long periods of time and no certainty of when they will reopen.
Compounding this has been disruptions with freight and escalating pricing.
As a result of all this we’ve had to embrace an extremely fluid approach to our release plan and delivery to store.
We’ve found that flexibility is the key to surviving COVID-19!.
From design to manufacturing and warehouse to store, everything must be as close to market as possible.
We’ve had to increase the amount of product we airfreight to ensure we have the right mix in store, and our design team have relaxed the product offering to cater to current demand.
Agility and a sense of experimentation is crucial to how our business has run for the last 53 years.
My role is to lead by example and be open to creative solutions and new ideas!
What is one piece of business advice you’ve been given that sticks with you today?
A great retailer once said to me: “You should listen more than you speak.”
This has always stuck with me!
Being a good listener is key to connecting with people and building relationships.