Insights from the World Retail Congress and beyond

Bernie Brookes
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An interview with Bernie Brookes, executive, chief executive, and chair with substantial expertise in retail.

The World Retail Congress shone a spotlight on topical points in the current global retail environment with key themes being diversity and inclusion, Environmental, Social and Governance  (ESG), cost inflation, deglobalisation vs localisation, and the changing expectations of today’s consumers. What does this mean for Australia? Questions remain over how retailers balance their investments in a high inflation environment, how they address the ongoing challenges around attracting and retaining top industry talent, and the future of the pureplay e-commerce retail model in an environment where consumers are returning to stores and bricks and mortar retailers have become digital retailers too.

In this podcast, Management Consulting Partner Liz Webster speaks with Bernie Brookes, a veteran of the retail industry with a career spanning 40 years. As the executive chair and owner of Colette by Colette Hayman, World Retail Congress Advisory Board member, former executive director of Woolworths, and former CEO of Myer, Bernie’s extensive experience in retail provides incredible insight into facing the challenges of today. The pair discuss insights from the World Retail Congress, leading multi-divisional companies through periods of distress, how we change the narrative around retail as a career, and the rise of digital innovation in retail.

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or within your browser.

Read full transcript

Liz Webster
Hi. I'm Liz Webster, Partner in Management Consulting here at Grant Thornton. At Grant Thornton, we work with some of Australia's largest retail businesses to help them be successful. We grew up in retail, and we've worked, and consume it 24/7. We work with our clients to bring their strategies to life; we do this because retail is in our DNA, because we are retailers first, and consultants second. 

In this We Are Retail podcast series, we speak to leaders in retail about how their firsthand experiences in navigating the ever-changing dynamics of the industry – deep diving into the latest research trends, innovations, we explore how retailers are evolving their operations and adapting their businesses to deliver better outcomes to their people and to their customers. 

I'm very excited to announce our guest for this edition of We Are Retail. In fact, he was my boss for about nearly eight years at Myer – so today we're speaking to the experienced Board Member, CEO and Managing Director, Bernie Brookes. Known to many, Bernie is a stalwart of Australia's retail industry. He's played right at the very top as the former Executive Director of Woolworths, and the former CEO of Myer – but these are just some of the achievements to Bernie's name. He's led numerous businesses during significant periods of change across his 40-year career. He's also on the Advisory Board of the World Retail Congress as Australia's representative. So, I'm very much looking forward to this discussion. 

Bernie – welcome and thank you for joining us. 

Bernie Brookes
Thanks, Liz. 

Liz Webster
So, Bernie tell me – you’ve just come back from the World Retail Congress. It's a really interesting time in in retail at the moment – what did you see and hear in Barcelona, not a bad place to be, that kind of really, you know, surprised you about what's going on in retail at the moment?

Bernie Brookes
So, I think you've got to reference the World Retail Congress as ‘the world’ Retail Congress rather than Australia. And so therefore, there are some fairly significant differences, but also some sameness in regard to what we're experiencing here in Australia. And I think there is a very heavy focus on such things as diversity and inclusion. 

There's no doubt that ESG was certainly very topical. It's funny, because this time last year at the World Retail Congress, the metaverse was the topic, but interestingly, the metaverse didn't get a mention, and so maybe some things are flirts, and some things are trends. But I think ESG, obviously, is a trend – a lot of discussion about cost inflation, and I guess, the post COVID world in retail with the changes that have occurred in COVID, and what I would call a trend towards the deglobalisation and localization -largely have come from lockdowns that have occurred. But I think we're seeing now a sort of anti-global movement where we stay local and support local industry. 

There's a lot of discussion about the shift from working at a venue to working at home, which is also very important in the way in which retailers go to market, and I think the Ukraine war has a big impact in Europe that we don't see too much here – but it's incredibly topical – we see the role of Governments, particularly in regard to China, and the United States. 

I think some of the other highlights were – they went back very well and talked about the role of the human in hunting, gathering and acquiring, and despite what's going on in the world, that actually hasn't changed, and so a lot of discussion then about that causes what I would call a sort of social capitalism that we're starting to see now as well. And so, lots of uncertainty, probably a difficult period with inflation, disruption, a lot of questions about what the future of the High Street is, and a lot of discussions about the model – the exact model as to how it goes. 

So, it was a diverse, interesting, lots of topics, and more importantly, very much topical for the current retail environment.

Liz Webster 
Oh, my gosh, how many themes have you given me to talk about here? Let's pick the one that kind of everyone talks about at the moment. And if you don't mind, we might just kind of expand on some of those themes that you've talked about. 

Let's talk about ESG because it's so prevalent everywhere, you know – everyone you talk to, doesn't matter what sector of business you're in, you know, whether you're mining, you know, out of the ground, whether you're manufacturing, whether you're a service industry - everyone’s talking about ESG. I'm interested to hear what your view is on where we land with this very broad theme called ESG.

Bernie Brookes
So, there's no doubt it's incredibly topical, and meaningfulness, and I think most people would answer that question in a very straightforward way. Listen, just say, look, ESG is really important. We've got to look after the environment, we've got to look after the social consciousness, and we've got to be very high on Governance, which is the E S G. And so, let's consider that said and perhaps just think about some of the real implications for that. 

Firstly, there's a cost – an initial cost with it. A lot of Boards in Retail are struggling with having to buy green power, which might be more expensive – solar and wind. A lot of them are discussing the carbon footprint, and to actually, eventually to buy carbon credits overseas or in Australia to store carbon, as a sorbent, or those sorts of things have a cost going with them to make sure that you're providing a social consciousness and whether it be supporting local communities, they have an initial cost. 

Now, I don't think there's any doubt that ESG can be an advantage, and there's no doubt that ESG is here to say it's a generational thing. It's not something that's just come because it's the latest trend. We're getting pushed enormously by the youth of today, and getting dragged initially, but now we're supporting them in making the change that's needed, and you've got to admire that of the youth that's quite often criticised that they've brought us along as part of this generation change. 

And so effectively, it's given us now a whole new focus and perspective on diversity, sustainability, supporting the community, and becoming more customer focused. 

The only couple of comments I'd make is that we've just finished a pretty significant research project at the Marquee Retail Group, which Colette and TDE, to understand why customers buy handbags and jewellery – and always good – I’m a big fan of frequent customer research, and the interesting part was the ESG component ranked last or second last in every survey. And so, I think you could say it's a bit like ‘Australia made’ you know, you everyone says buy Australian, support Australian product, and you stand in front of the fixture, and if it's 20 cents cheaper to buy a product coming from another part of the world, people buy it. 

And so ESG, I think it's a little bit different. But there is still that consciousness of I want it to be environmentally friendly; I want it to be sustainable; I want it to be from a good Governance and supporting society, but I'm not prepared to pay that much more for it. And so, therefore, there's a cost to retailers as well. But eventually, it'll come back and be the most important thing in peoples’ mind as we go forward, because we know the climate issues that we're facing, we understand the emissions that are occurring, particularly by some of our big emitters, and particularly in Australia. And we know that the only way in which this is going to be achieved is the Paris accord and the importance of ensuring that we're all part of it and play our little part. 

Liz Webster
So, Bernie, how does deflationary pricing play out against ESG? Because I think you're absolutely right. I don't know if maybe I've hung around you a long time having worked with you and for you, and the Australian made thing I think is very true when you stand in front of a shelf, and you're looking at the same product with the pricing being very different one made, for example, somewhere else and one made in Australia – that people do shop with their hip pocket. 

Now, how will that play out when we're in such high inflationary pricing? What do retailers do like do they? Do they sit tight for a little bit? Because how much more are they going to put on the cost of product? And how much more will the customer be prepared to pay? Let's say over the next 12 to 18 months, because I think that's how far away, we are from pricing stabilising I'm guessing.

Bernie Brookes
So, I guess there's got to be a balance – I mean, it's no different to the way in which retailers balance the move to a digital world, from bricks and mortar. Over a period of time, the balance occurs where there's less bricks and mortar sale and more digital or online sales. And so, with ESG, it's got to be over a period of time that you invest in the right things, and you invest for the right reasons. And I think if you do that, over a period of time, you'll see that change. 

When today, for retailers trying to manage very heavy cost imposters associated with inflation, wage pressures that we're experiencing, and then you add conversion to ESG, then the end result of that is that the customer is going to be really quite fractured in trying to meet their own income needs as income and expenditure needs as well. 

So, I think that the answer is I think there are some people that just don't believe in it and won't do anything for it. And look, we've got to be conscious of some fast fashion businesses that just become incredibly disposable and to form so much waste, and we've got to be conscious of businesses that don't practice good practices in regard to modern slavery, and so, there are those businesses that we have to stamp out, there are those practices that we have to stamp out as well, but the good news is that we've got an enormous tailwind of the youth of today, encouraging us more and more to do it and that's fantastic. But in saying that, it's got to be done gradual otherwise the cost will make it prohibitive, and people will walk away.

Liz Webster
So just kind of picking up then on, you know, you're talking about the youth of today – you know retailing employs so many young people. Most of us through our studies, whether it's school or uni, have had retail jobs. 

Are you seeing a shift in the way young people are looking at retail? Do you think retail is something now that has become more than just a have, you know a way to make money when you're studying full time? 

Or do you think there's the opportunity for us to make retail really a – I mean – we’ve worked in retail a long time – you almost your whole working or your whole working life, I think. How do we make retail a really attractive proposition for young people, and should we keep older people in retail longer?

Bernie Brookes
My mum is 90, and I remember the day quite vividly when I walked in and told her that after six months of being a schoolteacher and four years of study, that I was going to leave and go on to the management training program for Woolworths. 

Once I'd picked her up off the floor, I think she'd realised that decision was not bendable, and so that's, I think, an example that there's still not the high level of recognition for retail as a career, and there's still a sort of unfortunateness that it's about casual jobs only while you're going through university. And I think it pushes us all to actually play a role in building the capability of retail as a career. 

As you know, I run the Joe Berry Memorial Award, and have done for the last 35 years that recognises the youth in retail; we've awarded 35 winners, a lot of them have made very high levels of business and made successful careers. So, I think we've got to get them across the message that retail does have an excellent future. You can be an IT specialist, you can be a digital specialist, you can be an HR person, you can be a finance person, you can be an operations manager. 

It’s a plethora of roles and jobs that does provide a great career, but we've got to do a better job of getting that message across.

Liz Webster
I think you're absolutely right, and having judged the Joe Berry Awards, I'm always in awe of the talent, and, you know, some of the essays that they write – so congratulations on continuing to be the patron of that. 

If we just keep talking about people for a second, how do organisations retain and attract talent? It's such a, you know – we’re in such a tight talent pool at the moment, especially as it pertains to retail, so whether that's operationally or whether that's in head offices, what should retailers be thinking about in order to retain and attract talent?

Bernie Brookes
So, I actually think there's two important adjectives that I'd use. The first is that it's not hard, people make it sound a lot harder than it is, and it's not suddenly something that's built overnight. So, I think if you set up a metabolism of your people, then they will come. 

So, I'll give you a couple of examples. As you know, I purchased the Colette business, which is part of the Marquee Retail Group. We now today have 57 stores; we've got over 700 employees, and we've got a head office team. The way in which we've retained those staff and built that business, where sort of sales has gone up about five times what it was when we first bought it two years ago, is that we've set up reward and recognition for our team at all levels. 

In the office, we reward our staff, you can bring your dogs to work anytime you want. You can bring your kids to work anytime you need to. We give them personal help with their own personal finances. We give them help with counsellors for relationship management; we give them skin checks in the office with doctors; we bring doctors into flu shots. And so, we provide those extra things that people don't get the time to do or feel aren't necessarily characteristic, and that makes it a desired place to work. And then we celebrate the success. So, this week had the opportunity to talk to a manager of the year last year, who just returned from a week's holiday in a resort in Phuket, and that's what we paid for as part of our incentive scheme. You also make sure that you retain them with a really good bonus scheme, so that if you make money, they make money. 

And I think the last couple of areas. So you always make sure you're consultative, in whatever you do; you communicate – I have no problem calling them in on our Tuesday at the end of the month, and we have a drink together and talk about the monster result, and I tell them exactly how much sales we're how much profit is how we're going, what we're doing. And so, you communicate, and you fill them in and make them part of the team. 

And then I think the last two things are, you certainly make them accountable. If you've got a non-performer in the business and you leave in there, people think oh, that's the effect that person's having on the business is not good. Let me tell you the effect that person is not having on the business by everybody else, looking at them thinking they're not pulling their weight is just as bad. And so, you know, you can't suffer nonperformance too long, and you need to be reasonably tough in doing that. 

And lastly, the best form of retention is ownership. So only 90 per cent of the market in retail group from day one, by the time five years comes, I’ll own about 65 per cent, and that other component is actually going to all of the staff on a Shared Equity scheme, and I think people work a lot harder, and are a lot more welded to the company when they own part of the company. And that's something that some companies realise now that others just neglect.

Liz Webster
And I think if we think back to our department store days, John Lewis was famous for that, right? Everyone owned a portion of John Lewis. Do you think though it's easy to do Bernie because you're a privately owned company?

Do you think it's really hard to do that when you're part of a, you know, a Woolworths or Coles or a Myer or a, you know, a medium sized organisation – I mean, your influence is far broader. And you can make decisions very close to where the decision needs to be made. Do you think it's tougher for, you know, medium to big retailers to make the decisions that you're making?

Bernie Brookes
Look, the quantum that I'm allowed to provide them is my call. So, you're right, that part makes it easier. However, establishing an equity scheme for the team and what private equity have done all their life successfully. When Woolworths in mid 1980s, coming out of Adelaide steamships was turning over about $5b in profit and losing $9m. 

One of the secrets to success to turn that into the monster it is today, sort of $40b into an over – there’s any reason why companies large more, cannot at least provide some incentive through ownership to all of their employees – all of their senior employees, at least. And so, I Woolworths have proved that, as you know, we had good schemes at Myer, and I've worked in managing businesses for a few years in India, in South Africa. In both those instances, there were generous incentive schemes, which drove the right sort of habits and people.

Liz Webster
Do you think we're getting to a point now that just, you know, maybe one final question on people, do you think we're getting to a point now where we're all going to be back in the office full time? Or do you think we're always still going to be in a hybrid? Working from home, working from an office environment? And what do you think is the model that is probably best suited to changing times?

Bernie Brookes
I have a number of businesses that I chair, some have two days a week in the office, and others have five days a week in the office. So, of the half a dozen retail businesses, I either own or chair, they've all got very different aptitudes and different ways they apply. 

I think the full time five days a week would make it very hard to attract people to your business. And so, you know, I think people are more productive in the office by a proverbial model these days. So therefore, I would envisage that we'll move towards probably a nine-day fortnight or a four-day week, actually in the office, and eventually, it'll become more than norm that there's one day at home. And that day at home, I think, will be much more strictly guarded and adhered to by employees because as wages go up, as costs go up, you demand more productivity from your staff.

And so, they can't have them out, walking the dog down to pick the kids up from school – all the things that they've been able to do. The world has certainly changed. And I had a funny occurrence the other day where I was talking to Michael at Bunnings, about his Friday's becoming quite big for him. And I said, why is it becoming quite big for you? And he said, because everybody's at home. And I said, Michael, they're supposed to be at home working, not doing their ‘do it yourself homewares’. So, I think ideally, the world is going to change probably towards that direction – it’s the same at the World Retail Congress. That's where it sort of seems to be headed to.

Liz Webster
Was there anything at the World Retail Congress that shocked you? Any speakers you heard speak or people you met? Was there anything in that kind of, outside of surprised and delighted you, did anything completely shock you and take you off guard?

Bernie Brookes
Yeah, there was some really good research that was undertaken in regard to the rise of the digital retail economy. And the fascinating part – it did a great graph, that I remember quite vividly that highlighted over a period since 2002 to 2022. So, let's take that 20-year cycle, the online penetration, and so it started in 2002, it was about 9 per cent across the world, and it got as high as 38 per cent during lockdown, and it's now sitting somewhere at about 17/18 per cent – that’s well across the world. 

Obviously, it's different by area. During that time, the retail profitability that EBITA has gone from 13.8 per cent to about 9.9 per cent. So, what do I deduce from that? For all of the enormous opportunity that digital creates, for all of the impacts that are taking place, as digital has grown, there's been a downward pressure on EBITA for retailers across the world. 

Liz Webster
The demise of bricks and mortar is certainly not there, right? That's kind of what I deduced from what you're saying, and you and I've had many conversations over the last few years around, you know, what's happened with e-commerce and how it's overtaken, it's come back down, and in some organisations, it's actually gone back down less to what it was before COVID, for example, because I think we're all now back out and we want to touch and feel. 

Do you think – is there a percentage that actually is the best percentage to be at in terms of e-commerce sales versus your bricks and mortar sales? Or do you think it just depends on the category you're in, and the sector you're in, and your customer base?

Bernie Brookes
Being a history teacher, I always like to look back to answer the question going forward, and I think there's some fascinating changes that have occurred through the retail environment that give you the answer to that question. 

So, I think if you go back to the change that occurred in the 50s, where particularly the old guy in the apron, or the lady in the apron that was the local grocer, or the local convenience store operator knew everybody, etc. And then suddenly, we moved to self-service retailing and self-service retailing, was going to be the demise of the local grocer and the local person as these big retail chains come up, and shopping centres arrived then, with big shopping centres and carpark in the sort of 60s and 70s. 

And so, what happened was, there was a rebalance, but the local shopkeepers still played an important role, and we might know them today under IGA, which have 20 per cent of the food market, and so there is certainly a re-levelling, and everybody says, it's the end of the world for the local grocer. 

And then you go forward to the introduction of scanning, which was another major change that occurred, and everybody said, hey, the introduction of scanning is going to move all of the power to the retailers, and no power to the customer. And now today, the customer has a lot more power than the retailer, particularly in view of the way in which they select product and the multitude of options to shop both digitally and in store. And so, people say the World Wide Web is here, and the World Wide Web is going to have a dramatic effect, and we're going to see the end of bricks and mortar retail, and, you know, painting pictures of burnt fields of retail environments in bricks and mortar. It's not right, we're going to see a re-levelling. 

My answer to your question is that it's probably, in more advanced countries, going to settle at somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent average, and in most countries, that will probably be an average of about 15 to 20. And I think, if I take Australia, I think there's going to be between a 15 and 20 per cent settlement of exactly where online retail is for all the reasons that we know: people like to touch, feel, see – there’s a community connection. And we're going to see a bit of a regeneration of some of those best shopping centres as they reconvert themselves. And the property, I think, there's very little new developments in property around the world in retail, but there is a lot of regeneration, and that's because people are sweating those assets a bit harder. The end result to that is I think there'll be a levelling out. What gave it a kick was COVID. However, it will settle out now I think probably between 15 and 20 per cent around the world. 

Liz Webster
What's your advice then to all those pure play e-commerce businesses? What do they need to do – do they need to get into a flurry and start opening stores? Do they need to look at their model? What's your advice if you've got if you're a pure play e-comm?

Bernie Brookes
Well, just as I think more companies have become digital, when I say more companies we're talking about let's take my David Jones, Coles, Woolworths, who have made this move towards the digital transformation. And so therefore, when they arrive as a pure play, there's very little competition. Now, the traditional retailers have got a great move and a great advantage in using their bricks and mortar and leveraging them. 

The big retailers, and people that have got bricks and mortar have got an organisational capability that a traditional pure play operator doesn't have, and I think a pure play operator are finding out but it's harder to make a digital profit, and it's harder to be productive, and it's hard to get a return on investment. And so, what we're seeing now is just part of this continued cycle, where they were the golden child that arrived in retail – Catch, Kogan – you can name 100 of them that arrive as pure play. They're now feeling the pinch finding it very, very difficult indeed. And that's largely because the bricks and mortar retailers have learned how to become digital retailers as well. And so I think for them to be successful, they've got to go back to where they started, which is how do they establish a competitive advantage? And how do they establish an organisational capability? And how do they establish a more productive and profitable online business? 

But I would hate to be in their shoes, because I think they've got a much bigger question to ask than what bricks and mortar did when the pure play operators first arrived.

Liz Webster
Yeah, they’re challenging times, aren't they for a lot of those retailers? And it does – I mean, I know it's a terminology we use frequently, which is, you know, a 360 offer but you almost do need a 360 offer because there is a generation of customer you know, and I'm kind of saying 20 and under who do everything on their phones. And you know, the way they think, and the way they interact is very different to the way you know someone like me interacts for example, you know, I love the physical presence of stores. 

Just kind of elaborating a little bit further – so where then does I guess, you know, these advancements in technology play out? You know, you've got augmented reality, you've got automation, you've got chat GPT, you've got AI – where do you think that's going to land in our retail world in the next little while?

Bernie Brookes
So, I think firstly, you've got to ask the question as to how does the consumer win? Any retail initiative in AI, virtual reality, Metaverse has got to ask the question, where does the consumer fit into this? And as you know, many retailers opened up where they'd been in advance of retailers. 

You saw in the 90s, Metro in Germany open the first door without scanning a product, and they'd scan a basket, and they'd look at your retina in your eye, and debit your bank account, and that was great, but it was far too far advanced. And so, the issue is you can't run too far ahead of the customers. And so artificial intelligence provides a exceptional opportunity to make things more productive, and to be honest, to minimise the number of people that are required to do the job, and we are struggling to get blue collar workers, and we are struggling to get middle management today. And so therefore, it may well be an excellent way in which to replace them. 

But I mean, we've had chatbots, for a long period of time, which is a form of AI. So, I do think that although the media loves it and talk about robots taking over the world, the reality is providing you keep your customer within the sites, then artificial intelligence has a meaningfulness. I chair a and partly own an AI company, and we do work in the Financial Services area, and let me tell you, the only way that's been a successful business was when we asked the question, how is it better, faster, cheaper for the customer, and how is it better, faster, cheaper for the banks? And in both those areas, once you tick the box, the business has been highly successful.

Liz Webster
Another little change of tack – so the last, would it be three or four years, you'd become the saviour of some businesses, you know buying them out of receivership. Talk to us a little bit about that. Talk to us what motivates you to do that? 

You clearly, you know, you bought Colette and then you recently bought The Daily Edited and there's a hell of a lot of women who, of my generation and all around the generations, who've got a piece of The Daily Edited, you know, merchandise – whether it's their phone, or their laptop case or whatever. 

Tell me what motivates you to buy these businesses? And what do you look for, outside of the business being in distress, what are you looking for in terms of the end game?

Bernie Brookes
So, I think I'll ask the second part first, and that is that when you look at a business, yes, it's got to have a competitive advantage, but you've got to understand why the business failed and if you look at TDE – two young ladies that were exceptionally gifted in design and development, but behind that in supply chain, IT and cash flow management was where the problem occurred. 

So I'd say to that absolutely nothing fundamentally wrong with the business providing you've got the capital, the cash flow, the IT and the supply chain well and truly nutted and, and from a Colette point of view, some wrong strategic decisions in spending cash, venturing overseas too quickly, and venturing into jewellery moving away from the traditional bags too quickly also was part of that downfall – added to that I think there was a private equity player that they dealt with; it also made a little bit difficult from a relationship point of view. 

And so, in both those instances, nothing wrong with the business. It's just the execution and the way in which they've been developed, designed and managed, or grown too quick in some areas. So therefore, that means that it's quite a good brand; it's got a competitive positioning in the market. You know, Colette is a very, very good fashionable, value for money, handbag and jewellery business, jewellery competing, probably with Lovisa and bags competing with Strandbags. And then I look at TDE, which is a beautiful quality leather goods that are embossed. And so, they've got a competitive advantage, they've got a position in the market, they just need to have some horsepower in regard to supply chain, IT etc as part of that. And so that's what I look for fundamentally, when looking at a business. 

In regard to then the role, I think there are four or five DNAs that you have to introduce into the business to be able to turn them around. I've spoken about people. I've been very fortunate. I've got two exceptional CEOs being Anthony and MJ that run those two businesses for me. And so firstly, you've got to get the right people to be able to run them. I think the second thing is retail is about newness. So, you've got to make sure that you bring newness into both those businesses. Retail is about quality. You've got to have a fanatical simplicity on making sure the quality is right. You've got to make sure that you're not over ranged and optimising the range. You've got to have a good supply chain, and you've got to be localised. We have a very high population in the western suburbs of Sydney for Colette. And so, we localise that, particularly at times of the year like Eid, where we can take advantage of some of the local clientele that we have. You've got to have brand consistency in store to store, really good visual merchandise, and you've got to build loyalty in customers. And lastly, customers are looking for value today. So, you've got to have a value offering in everything. 

So that's the sort of DNA that's consistent across both brands. If you put that DNA on top of fixing – let’s call it the back end of the business that may not have been as well managed, then that gives you an opportunity to resurrect and rebuild the brand.

Liz Webster
Are you eyeing off any other retailers that you'd like to buy?

Bernie Brookes
I've been unsuccessful three times being the under bidder in three other businesses, and so I'll just keep an eye on what's available. 

I mean, it's very hard to get into the fashion business unless you're doing it on critical mass and meaning apparel. And so, you know, that's one that probably doesn't fit into my radar, but it'd be nice to build the Marquee Retail Group into a decent size business going forward – probably started too late. I'm a bit a bit old to start and have a large Marquee Retail Group, but I'm pretty comfortable that we can get the business up to a couple 100 million the way we're going.

Liz Webster
So, building complementary businesses? Because clearly, TDE is very complementary to Colette, and even slightly, you know, different price points, so possibly even a different customer base. Is a complementary businesses that the ones that you've missed out on, were they're complementary to what you already had?

Bernie Brookes
Yeah, exactly, they were, but I think it’s a good word, they've got to be complementary. Or you can use the existing back office, back end, to get all the synergies, it doesn't necessarily have to be an accessory or handbag or jewellery business, it can be something that you can use the same back end because that's where the real cost envy comes from. And so, it could be something quite different. In a totally different retail area, providing we can still use our back end.

Liz Webster
And actually, had my final question – what advice would you give retailers currently? And you've kind of answered so much of that in what you've said, but What other advice, if you have an answer, that you would you give retailers to be successful in these really challenging times that we're in?

Bernie Brookes
So very quickly, I have my sort of top 10 things that I think you would do if you were a retailer. The first is create heroes in your business. The second is you've got to measure it. You can only manage things, if you measure it; you've got to be fanatical on costs. You've got to be a merchant, you've got to look at associated selling; be a merchant; you've got to step up your level of communication. You've got to have a business strategy and a whole of business strategy. You've got to make sure that you don't overcomplicated business and keep it really, really simple, and that means go back and review meetings, go back and review communication. You've got to act as if you were the market leader. And that's important so that you make sure that you are thinking yourself as the market leader, and you've got to have absolute internal transparency.

And so those sorts of things are what my tattoo if you like, when I look at any business that you ask yourself, are they doing that? And if the answer is no, then there are certainly opportunities there.

Liz Webster
Thank you Bernie. That was an amazingly interesting conversation for me, and I hope our listeners all enjoyed it as well. I wish you all the very best as you continue to build out Marquee Group and enjoy the rest of your day.

Bernie Brookes
Thanks Liz. Appreciate the opportunity.

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