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Talking Shop: Craig Robertson

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We have many opportunities to work with fantastic brands and their team who are focused on creating powerful retail environments.  Craig Robertson of Bikes International shares his thoughts on retail trends, tips around focusing on your customers, working as a team, and insights for the future of Bike Barn (a subsidiary of Bikes International) ...

You have an impressive career in leading retail organisations, tell us a bit about your experience to date:

I have worked in retail environments since I was 15 and had over 20 years’ experience in executive roles both coaching and developing national teams across corporate, owner operator and franchise operations.

Key roles have included roles with Briscoe Group, NZ Post, Telecom and Noel Leeming, and at present as Managing Director of Bikes International.

Regardless of the management structure, the number of direct and indirect reports, each role has been underpinned by achieving revenue and EBIT, and driving change at all times maintaining a customer centric approach to business.

With your proven experience, what top 3 tips would you have for other retailers?

  1. Whatever initiative you put in place, it must be leader-led and developed from understanding the customer journey - you must live and breathe the customer
  2. Focus on driving sales and service standards. This could be as simple as how you greet a customer on the shop floor or over the phone, it must be consistent with the organisation and its purpose. Make sure your team are well informed of the products on offer and any marketing that is in place. Constantly look at your retail environment through the customer lens; I’m a firm believer that customers can look past certain elements within a store environment, but as soon as their expectations, even those that they may not be cognitive of, start to be challenged, they’ll look around and notice other elements that will unravel your brand positioning quite quickly. It’s imperative to set and adhere to standards
  3. Achieving your share of wallet. Remain competitive, supported by activities across your various sales channels. Have a consistent omni-channel approach regardless of how the customer chooses to engage with your business be it on-line, over the phone or in-store

Are there any trends you are seeing in retail?

Digital is huge. People have been talking about it for a long time, but you are now seeing retailers who were largely digitally focused, realising that they need to have a physical place. Look at the wet and forget story; they were promoting an online offer and now have over 16 stores. They worked out that to reach a wider audience, you need a place that people can visit. They’re still very strong digitally but supported by bricks and mortar, as opposed to the challenge of a traditional retailer trying to come to terms with the digital way.

It’s about bringing everything together to understand how you can connect with people; through social media, direct mail, or data capture, and ensuring that the message you are serving customers is relevant. It is an ongoing investment; having a good website is one thing, but it’s about augmenting that experience in-store too. It’s my belief that people still value the tactile experience. They may not buy there and then, but revert to buying online once they make a decision, hence the need to provide an omni-channel experience.

What elements of the retail market peak your interest?

Store design is something that I am passionate about; creating an on-brand experience by matching in-store experiences with your overarching promise is essential. Keep reinventing your business to keep it fresh - this is something I find is imperative in the ever-changing retail space.

Any advice for teams involved in creating retail experiences from your own learnings?

Culture. Engagement all the way through the business is imperative; from senior management to the team on the shop floor. Communication strategies and being passionate about your brand/business is paramount.

What is it about RD’s people, processes and/or outcomes that is unique in the marketplace and has led to your partnership with us to date?

The nature of the personal relationships formed between businesses. The RD team have a desire to understand a business and a drive to achieve results that benefit their clients. You very seldom hear a no from RD, it’s always a yes and then the team find a solution to deliver on promises. RD are innovative and constantly on the hunt for what’s new and how they could apply these learnings to their customers from technology solutions through to a new way of merchandising or calling out a brand.

RD help the decision makers, who are often not skilled in the construction and design game, visualise what’s possible. You’re competitive, with great people who are engaging, contactable and have a genuine desire to succeed, plus you’re open to partnering with people who could help augment that process.

As Managing Director of Bikes International, how are you currently driving change to establish best practice for the Bike Barn brand?

Driving a sales and service methodology around the retail experience. I’m currently working through our property strategy; looking at our lease profile, store locations, the current brand, and how to re-align them all for consistency. This has involved a restructure across the business moving from a wholesale-led organisation to a retail-led business, supported by systems and processes that meet the changing needs of the organisation. We also worked with all our Store Managers when it came to designing our service methodology in-store, defining who we are as a brand and where we sit on the spectrum within the bicycle retailing industry.

As part of your current project engagement with RD, is the Bike Barn brand going to change significantly? If so how?

We’re introducing a new tagline and logo lockup, and we’ve got a new store design which completely revolutionises the look and feel of the store. The design also enables us to take components to use in stores where a complete new fit-out is not viable. And as we roll out, the staff engagement with the new tagline and environment will be crucial.

Will you be transitioning from a family brand? What is the thinking around that decision?

No, that’s our sweet spot. In all our workshops around understanding who we are verse our competitors, family was very strong. No matter what you want to ride, from your very first bike to a high-end mountain bike, a commuter bike or a road bike, we can find your fit and your ride including e-bikes solutions.   

You have both well-established bike brands and speciality bikes, what will your focus be?

We’ve looked at our brands and where they fit in the market, and we want to tell more of a story. Merida is one of our top brands; most kiwis see this as a home brand yet it’s the number 2 bike brand in the world, so we will elevate it and treat this brand a bit differently. We will look to categorise products as good, better, best and then premium.

How are you looking to further integrate your customer focus in to the Bike Barn brand?

We want our Bike Barn website to be the site to visit to gain knowledge on where to ride. To communicate new tracks, link in to our stores for purchase or bike hire and have rich product information available that will make a difference in people’s buying decisions. Essentially firmly positioning Bike Barn within the community.

Are you keen to Talk Shop with us too?  contact Katie