IR: What were the major challenges you faced when standing down and then bringing back your entire workforce?
DA: During lockdown, we acted quickly to convert our retail stores into “dark stores” which were fulfilment sites for online orders. This meant we were in a position to keep our staff stood up and receiving pay during a difficult time. Having staff stood up meant we were able to quickly re-open stores with Covid Safe practices, as soon as we were given the green light.
IR: What did you learn about consumer behaviour during the Covid-19 shutdowns and reopening?
DA: Consumers were being both more conscious of their spending during the Covid-19 shutdowns, and, on the other hand, willing to make online purchases that brought something new and exciting into their lives.
Online sales for Accent Group boomed as many Australians sought-out new activewear, particularly sneakers, to align with working from home and a more active lifestyle. Fifty per cent of customers who shopped with us online in Q4 FY20 had not shopped with us through any channel before. The Athlete’s Foot and Stylerunner in particular benefited from the trend to performance, lifestyle and activewear. In FY20, digital sales grew by 142 per cent in Q4.
IR: At the beginning of the year, many advertisers halted their ad campaigns, but Accent Group ran a large TV campaign. Why?
DA: During the Covid-19 lockdown we accelerated our marketing spend both in digital channels and TV. It was the first time we had run TV campaigns for Platypus and Stylerunner in particular with a focus on growing brand awareness and highlighting our online sites.
IR: What’s next for Accent’s omnichannel store network strategy?
DA: Having an integrated digital capability and strong store network continues to be key to delivering innovative and high-quality customer experience. The clever connectivity between our stores enabled us to create “dark stores” and fulfil and dispatch online orders from any store in the country during the shutdown period. Without this integrated network, we wouldn’t have been able to be so flexible. The importance of stores to drive our brands is clear. In new geographic locations where we open new stores, inevitably brand awareness increases as do our digital sales from those areas.
IR: Accent Group recently opened Stylerunner’s first physical store. How will you continue to grow that business?
DA: Stylerunner is an impressive Australian brand that continues to see strong results. The launch of the first bricks-and-mortar store for Stylerunner in Armadale, Melbourne was extremely successful. The customer experience is on point and the strength of the Stylerunner brand is evident. We’re very proud of the store – it’s a modern destination for premium activewear and an active lifestyle. We plan to open up further stores for Stylerunner around the country, as well as continue to amplify its online capabilities.
IR: What are your top priorities for the business in the next 12 months?
DA: We will continue to prioritise digital at Accent Group to enhance customer experience, engagement and satisfaction. Digital initiatives are at the core of our business, and in the coming 12 months we will launch new websites, customer loyalty programs and new, virtual sales capabilities to accelerate growth in this area.
Opening new stores will also remain a top priority, with the business primed to open around 80 new stores in FY21. The performance of our new stores is solid, and we plan to continue to adapt and improve our bricks and mortar offering to ensure we’re providing the best shopping experiences for customers.
We are very excited about our business formats Pivot and Stylerunner, with the early stores performing well and an opportunity for big roll-outs for both banners.
This article was published as part of the Australian Retail Outlook for 2021. To download the report, click here.