Ecco head of direct-to-consumer Jeff Karger talks shop.

What's your day to day role?

I have the privilege of guiding our retail, marketing and eCommerce teams along our path towards premiumisation.

Whether it be analysing internal metrics or current market trends and conditions, empowering our store management team with quantified data allowing them to coach and mentor our frontline team members, lease negotiations for proposed or current locations, sharing insights within our industry network, exploring go-to market strategies or collaborations with other brands, digital/creative agency meetings or sharing best practice amongst both regional and global teams, my day to day role is challenging, humbling and incredibly rewarding.

What's an intiative you are most proud of?

Without doubt was the opening and continued success of our concept store within the Queen Victoria Building.

Here was arguably Australia’s most luxurious shopping precinct and if we were to be successful in not only obtaining a lease in this highly sought after and coveted centre, acquire a new, younger more fashion conscious consumer with a never-before--seen-in-Australia product range then we as a team would be assured that we were well and truly along the (right) path of premiumisation.

The negotiation (read: convincing the landlord!) and design of what would ultimately be a fitout unlike any other Ecco has ever produced within the region, would represent our heritage and premium craftmanship of product befitting of such a global brand and importantly how it is certainly represented within the luxury and premium retail landscapes in other global markets.

The challenge, aside from the before mentioned, was that not only was the footprint 50% smaller than every other Ecco store but it was only 400m away from our flagship store. So would we be able to showcase enough new product to invite our new targeted younger consumer within such a small space whilst still being profitable?

Could we ensure that we would not alienate our loyal consumer with the new fitout/product range and worse yet would we just be splitting sales between the two stores? The result after the first nine months has been outstanding.

Not only have we introduced a new younger consumer to our brand, established an amazing new product range delivering fantastic insights into what is possible within this market, but there has been zero cannibalisation in either traffic or importantly sales from our flagship store. It has proven we are headed as a brand towards premiumisation and has led to many conversations with other landlords about future concepts and opportunities.

What's the most challenging?

The most challenging aspect is the discount mindset of the Australian consumer driven by retailers which see a continual and never ending downward spiral of promotional periods that seem to start earlier each campaign period, continue past initial end dates and seem to meld from one to another. What we have ended up with is a consumer that is driven by sale periods and retail staff that can only sell product when giving something away.

Even though we are a little sheltered to a point being within the premium space, it is even more important now that our staff understand the true craftmenship of our product and processes and sell value to our consumers in this way and not on price alone as many retailers continue to muddy the waters with incessant discount cycles.

What's the most rewarding?

Seeing a younger consumer being introduced to our brand and becoming an advocate on SoMe, our continual innovation of product, explaining the brand and heritage to a new consumer and seeing them understand our global scale and ensuring premium quality leather goods at every turn.

However the most rewarding is seeing that as part of our path to premiumisation we now have a performance based, KPI and metric-focused management team flowing through from support centre to our frontline teams. Each and every team member is aware of the brand direction and what it takes to succeed into the future.

Biggest change ahead?

The biggest change I see is the importance of understanding and subsequently adapting to the Millennial generation both from a ‘sell to’ and ‘buy from’ point of view, as their buying power and influence only increases.

Not only will they want a seamless shopping experience across all channels (omni), delivery within an ever-shortening timeframe but in an age of brand transparency topics and proven facts of sustainability and enviro-neutral production processes will rate higher than price and quality in their purchasing decision process.

Promotional and discounting campaigns will matter less as influencer opinion and in-store memories shape their shopping habits. These same purchasing priorities will also dictate whom they work for as flexible work environments and non-monetary remuneration such as carbon footprint offsetting become the new currency of future employment. The future of retail is without doubt experience and emotionally led.

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