“Our customers are on a digital journey and we are on a digital journey as well.”
This is how Simon Kennedy describes the backdrop in which he and his team of 130 at The Warehouse Group operate in.
Kennedy joined the retailer more than seven years ago, initially in IS leadership roles before becoming CIO. It was his first CIO role after a career across the globe in management consulting, focused on the retail and consumer goods industries.
“Driving improvements for the benefit of our customers and our team members, is a passion of mine,” he explains.
“For anyone working in technology, retail is a fast-moving and very exciting place to be.”
In fact, he says, the best place to work in technology is in retail.
“Retail is right in the middle of big technology trends – social, mobile, analytics, cloud, Internet of Things.
“All of these are coming together in the world of our customers and creating unprecedented opportunities to understand, connect and serve them,” he states.
A range of new technologies – like apps and mobile payment devices for customers; and stockfinder predictive reporting to aid store operations – has been rolled out at the Warehouse ‘Red Sheds’ as well as Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming Group, Torpedo 7 and the Warehouse Group Financial Services.
Kennedy is a member of the Group Executive Team and also the Red Sheds Lead Team. This provides full opportunity to contribute to, and be guided by, both Group and Brand level business strategy, he states.
He says there are now many touch points, online and offline, that help trigger a customer’s need, or decision.
“We are very conscious of wanting to support a more sophisticated customer journey in all of our brands,” he states.
“Our customers will choose how they want to shop with us, the services they want and what is going to add value is really up to them. We have to be in the best possible shape to put options to them and finding ways to add value.”
He says two questions they ask constantly are, “Is this right for our customers? Is the experience consistent with the total brand offer?”
In conjunction with his CIO role, Kennedy acts as an advisory board member to the Future Leaders Programme at the University of Auckland Business School. The programme aims to prepare mid-career IT professionals to step into the CIO role.
He is also a part of the advisory committee of the Masters in Business Analytics programme at Massey University.
He says a factor in his involvement in this programmes is to highlight the upsides of working in the retail industry.
“I think oftentimes, retail is undervalued or underestimated as a career opportunity.”
While any one individual might not be able to solve this problem, he says, it will help “if we all do our small bit, whether it is about advisory boards or providing opportunities for students to complete project work or supporting internships. Together, we can increase the level of talent and the diversity coming into the industry.”
The Warehouse Group has announced a series of changes to its business operating model. Group CEO Nick Grayston said the changes are designed to drive an improvement in financial performance and generate greater customer relevance as customer needs change and competition increases.
“Changes will focus primarily on simplification to reduce complexities, drive efficiencies and increase business agility, while removing significant cost, stated Grayston.
Some of the changes include consolidating the various Group support service functions, combining The Warehouse (Red Sheds) and Warehouse Stationery (Blue Sheds) by integrating their operating structures and executive leadership. This will also occur for Noel Leeming and Torpedo7 Groups.
Grayston said The Warehouse Group is confident that such change will reposition the business for the future to ensure it is best placed to meet the changing needs of its customers and optimise its opportunities in the dynamic retail environment.