Retailer of The Year
One of the most prestigious awards at the Australian Surf Industry Awards is Retailer of The Year, won by Saltwater Wine/Stormriders, a multi-store business owned by SBIA president Anthony “Macka” Wilson. This award is voted on by the brand members of the SBIA and recognises retail excellence within our industry and given the high number of outstanding surf retailers, it is a very competitive category.
A few weeks after the Surf Industry Awards, Saltwater/Stormriders won the Independent Retailer of the Year Award at the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) annual awards. The ARA is the biggest retail association in Australia and winning the award is not only an endorsement of Wilson and his team, but also of the exceptionally high standards of the leading surf retailers.
Reggae Elliss spoke to Macka about winning the two awards and his thoughts on what makes a good retailer.
You won the Independent Retailer of the Year at last month’s ARA Australian Retail Awards again after winning the inaugural SBIA Australian Retailer of the year. That must be satisfying to know the hard work has paid off?
Yeah, definitely but more than anything its great recognition for the effort our team puts in. We have a talented and hard working team across our stores, warehouse and head office leadership group. It really is great kudos for everyone from Jacko the weekend grommet through to Ross our Forster store Manager who has been with me for 25 years.
Why do you think you won – what are the elements of your business that contribute to winning both awards?
You’d have to ask the Industry brands that voted for us in the SBIA awards or the judges at the ARA awards! But you know we are always striving to be the best we can be and execute the best we can. I think we have pretty good systems and processes in place that lets everyone go about their work with clarity and confidence and that in turn creates a good environment. Then I think it’s that environment which showcases what we do well and the brands and ARA judges have recognised that.
Surf retail is a competitive sector; do you see the ARA award as an endorsement for our industry as retail leaders?
Absolutely! As an industry we have some great retailers and I’m humbled that we are regarded so highly at the SBIA awards by our industry peers. To be honest I always have an element of doubt as to whether we have won the various Surf Industry awards because of my profile and involvement with SBIA or because we are genuinely deserving. The ARA awards, and in particular being voted the Independent Retailer of the Year out of all types of retailers across Australia certainly validates the result we received at the SBIA awards.
You own multi-stores and staff are crucial to your business’ success. How do you find and retain good staff?
I’d like to think that the environment that our team collectively creates attracts and retains good people. We are a family business and in many ways we are like a second family for our team. In a lot of cases we are the first job and the last job as kids grow up with us. With our stores we like to spell out our expectations and KPI’s so that our managers know what they need to do and achieve. I think the culture of a business is really underestimated, the way we interact with each other is a
reflection of the way we interact with our customers.
“The good retailers that I see are those that are clear about who they are and what they do. They are customer-centric.”
What do you think makes a good retailer?
Geez Reggae, you said this was going to be easy! …There is so much that goes into executing at retail. The good retailers that I see are those that are clear about who they are and what they do. They are customer-centric. They understand their customer and create an experience that engages and resonates. They are disciplined in their approach and their policies and procedures make them easy for customers to deal with.
Is there anything you see as unique to surf retail?
For sure. As an industry we have so many great products, categories and stories to tell. We are one of the few retail sectors hinged to sports and lifestyle. One of the central reasons we set up the industry association was to establish the Awards to recognise and celebrate our achievements and uniqueness.
What are some of the challenges facing surf retail?
Retail continues to change really quickly and I’m not sure that collectively we are keeping up. There’s a lot of retailers that haven’t changed the way they do things, like if you don’t have a point of sale computer system that can give you product, brand and category performance you need to get one real quick. If you don’t have a business Facebook page, or Instagram, or a website, or claimed your Google places listing then you need to get onto it real quick. If you won’t give your customer a refund if they change their mind, you need to. It’s not the shop down the road we are competing with, it’s the ASOS’s and Surfstich’s of the world with free shipping, free returns and, of course, refunds. Our customers want engagement, we need to be changing things up and putting fresh product in front of our customers every week. I know the “four seasons” has a fair way to go to be adopted and hasn’t been popular with some retailers, but for my business our aged inventory is the cleanest it’s been in years and the stock we have in store is really fresh.