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BEST OF THE REST: February 7

February 4, 2011: While the week just passed has been marked by big local and international news stories in the shape of Cyclone Yasi and the people’s rebellion in Egypt, it’s been awful quiet in the world of retail.

Inside Retailing has an opinion piece by Stuart Bennie on GST-free online sales, in which he used online DSLR sales as a perfect example of Australian retailing’s lack of ability to compete in a globalised marketplace. Mr Bennie concluded by making the modest proposal that Australia should just stop doing retail in categories in which it can’t deliver cheaper prices!

Of more interest than the feature itself, which offered little real insight (it’s all apparently due to high rents and wages) were the comments following, who with one exception were from people who seemed to know what they were talking about…

RetailBiz, along with several other websites, published a press release from online price comparison website Getprice where the hardly-stunning assertion was made that online retailing will continue to grow in Australia.

Getprice marketing director David Whiteman said ‘if retailers ignore the online channel, they risk losing relevance with their customers’.

(It’s truly remarkable how many ‘retail experts’ aren’t actually retailers. In fact, hardly any of the recognised retail experts in Australia seem to actually do retailing. Perhaps this is the problem – we need these experts managing stores and serving customers to show the inexpert retailers how it’s done. A side-benefit would be less stating of the bleeding obvious in industry forums!)

Photo & Imaging News ran a bunch of figures from property advisor Urbis showing that ‘film processing and photography stores’ experienced a decline in sales in regional shopping centres in 2009/10.

After you read the story you might scratch your head and wonder ‘what does it all mean?”. Go to an analysis of the Urbis report in Inside Retailing from Michael Baker (pictured right), in which he explains the role of shopping centre management in keeping the sales sails trimmed, and how decling sales growth is closely related to reduced store space, so that in some of the ‘poor performing’ retail categories, sales per square metre actually increased.

Michael Baker, who actually does a bit or work for Urbis, is also author of an interesting White Paper looking at the comparative performance of retailers in shopping centres in Australia and the US. Turns out Australian retailers, including speciality retailers operating from shopping centres, are far more efficient than their American cousins.

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