Third NORA eCommerce Expedition travels to Sydney May 19, 2014 21:46

It was a pleasure to cut the ribbon on the third NORA eCommerce expedition with Anna Lee and Shannon Micallef of Team NORA, making up the hardy NORA new retail tour guides!
The eCommerce Expeditions are a full day of deep immersion into new retail, and usually comprises three distinct itinerary stops. Our latest expedition, last Wednesday the 14th of May, indeed had three exciting pit stops. First stop, The Iconic’s distribution capabilities in Wetherill Park. Then, a working lunch break, at Bondi Pizza, in Parramatta ( go figure!), with a Power Panel from our NORA Talent Network. And then on to our last visit for the day, the magnificent and ergonomic Optus Campus in North Ryde. Of course, the bus was a chatter with networking conversations and colleagues in new retail exploring opportunities and challenges in the sector. Even the microphone on the luxury bus got a “ NORA Nibble” workout, with every delegate doing a short elevator pitch on their business and their role within it.

Starting off with a welcome coffee and breakfast, we all met at the stylish Pullman Hotel at Sydney Olympic Park. A chance for everyone to have a chat. After welcoming the group, we all headed into our waiting bus. And we were off to The Iconic where we were welcomed by Adam Jacobs, co-founder of The Iconic and some of his key team who run the logistics and distribution centre. Adam welcomed the tour group, and wisely suggested that we first go and do a walking tour of The Iconic facility.

Two of Adam’s lieutenants, Jay and Guy broke the group into two to ensure we all had a deep insights tour of the facilities. Of course a safety briefing and a fluoro jacket was the first cab off the rank!

Once into The Iconic’s DC, the group was struck by the size of the operation, as well as the efficiency, and hygiene. Distribution centres are usually pretty dusty places, but given The Iconic are in the fashion vertical, I felt I could eat of the floor. Well, you know what I mean.

After about an hour of touring all aspects of their supply chain, including receiving (big forty foot high cube container being unloaded), returns (a crucial part of The Iconic model, 100 day returns! Customers love it), storage and despatch (the parcels were going out at a rate of knots), we returned to the common room where Adam took us candidly through The Iconic journey. And what a journey it has been. A fast growth, fast learning, breakneck story of a powerfully emerging fashion brand in Australia and highlighted some of the important lessons along the way as well as some examples of phenomenal customer service.

Adam fielded some quality questions from an engaged audience, many of whom were very experienced retailers themselves. Even a few competitors. But full credit to Adam. He really is a great retail leader, and represents the very best of contemporary leadership in the space. He represented his brand and stakeholders brilliantly, and we all felt we had had a ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ view of growing a brand from the ground up. Inspiring indeed.

Back on the bus, and lots of chatter amongst delegates, and the NORA Nibble soon saw us offloaded at Bondi Pizza, Parramatta. A golden opportunity to have a working lunch. Whilst munching on pizza, the tour group listened to four experts in their field and members of the NORA Talent Network, retail’s most dynamic mentor group and powerful member benefit to NORA members who can access these talented practitioners, free, as part of the NORA membership.

Our four wise panelists were Sharon Scheepers, an experienced and dynamic marketing guru, having worked in executive roles at eBay, DealsDirect, Ezibuy, amongst others. Darren Younger, of the brilliant Manly Emporium tech work space and Techbeach, he is focussed on empowering and funding high growth start-ups based on the Northern beaches. Lorena Sosa, a partner at Grant Thornton, and an expert on transfer pricing and global tax optimisation, and lastly, Simon Byrne of Oracle, a seasoned executive working within Oracle on their customer experience portfolio of products. And I was privileged to moderate.

Whilst I admit it was hard to watch our audience tucking into delicious woodfired pizza , greek salad and even strawberry and bananas dipped in chocolate, we covered a lot of ground in the forty minutes or so of thoughtful conversation . The conversation was broad of course with topics including the Federal Budget, exciting new technologies, best practices in the industry as well as the arrival of international brands on our shores.

Feeling well fed, we clambered back on the bus and headed to Optus North Ryde. The Optus facility was enormous, but all went to plan and we were met by Shannan Bateup, Robbie Kruger, Andrew Branwhite – Team Optus, at our rendezvous point, and taken through security to a modern state of the art presentation room.

The presentation by Andrew Branwhite “The Journey to Becoming Australia’s Best loved Service brand” was fast paced, searing and brutally honest. A recognition that Optus, like many brands, especially in telco and technology had possibly lost its way and had to reconnect to the mojo that build it. Asking the hard questions, the brutal truth, and responding powerfully to customer and staff insights has paved the way for a new Optus to emerge. Watch this space!

After Andrew’s engaging presentation, the group again was split into two, a personal guide taking us around the fabulous Optus campus. A particular focus of the tour was spending time at the Optus retail store on site. A fully functioning store that services the sizeable Optus employee complement on campus. The prototype store on campus, whilst very slick and minimal, has a ‘pop up shop’ feel to it. Which many would argue is the way physical stores are headed. A more malleable, fast changing and permeable framework, allowing for quick changes and makeovers.

Optus have focussed on ensuring that a number of staff needs are catered for onsite. This includes childcare, massage therapy and hairdressing, a number of eateries and coffee shops, transport to the Macquarie Park train stop and much more. We understand the relocation of all Optus Sydney staff to this one location was the biggest civilian peace time movement of people in Australia’s history.

As the day came to end, we headed back to the Pullman Hotel for drinks and canapés, to reflect on the day, and to debrief on some of the conversations and learnings. We find with most of our NORA events, this is when the magic happens, when business connections are forged and friendships are made – after we realise that we all have more in common than just being in the retail industry but that we share the same spirit, travelled the same journeys and happy to share our experiences for the good of others. We were delighted to see competitors engaging in conversation, companies operating in different channels exchanging contact details to explore opportunities to grow & prosper each other and for some just some great laughs about life over a beer.

At around 7pm, we folded down our trusty NORA banners and headed home. Another successful NORA eCommerce Expedition. We hope to see you at the next one!

Paul, Anna & Shannon Team NORA