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Sales performance remains as unpredictable as ever

• Est. 1945
• Years in Trade
• Location Adelaide, SA

» What’s the most significant challenge your business faced in 2022?

Trying to predict sales volumes as demand and market trends remained unpredictable. Knowing how much to order from our suppliers has been a very serious challenge.

» As 2022 ends, was there anything that caught you by surprise during the year?

How quickly it became boring to talk about the pandemic was a surprise. Our customers and teams see it as firmly in the rearview mirror and that snapped in as soon as we opened up.

» The problems of businesses finding suitable staff have been widely reported in the media; have you had to change the way you manage your staff?

Guerilla tactics have to be employed in these times. Our team uses every interaction with people to spruik the benefits of working in our business. It has been surprising how well this strategy has worked. We must now seek great people rather than placing a job ad and waiting for resumes to arrive.

» In December 2022, are you paying more or less tenancy costs (rent/lease, outgoings etc) than you were in 2019?

Things have returned back to normal now and that extends to landlord deals in terms of costs. Lease terms have shortened which will take a few years to wash through the system but I believe that too will return to normal before too long.

» Has your sales income increased or decreased in the past five years ago?

Our sales increase every year as does profit. With fixed costs looking like they might be higher than 8 per cent this year, if sales and profit aren’t matching that number then you have a couple of years before its curtains for any business out there. Costs must never exceed income as a hard rule.

» Can you comment on online retailing?

At 14.5 per cent of total Australian retail sales being conducted through digital channels, I think that the growth will slow down. We are seeing slowdowns now and as the percentage inches up it will eventually hit a ceiling.

» Have you noticed any new trends in consumer product preference?

"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

With the rise of Instagram as the influence channel of choice for our customer we have noticed that ‘hot’ products don’t exist in the way that they once did.

We used to be able to pick a winner, market it in catalogue and sell loads of them because our customer was comparing that product to the four other catlogues that they had read that week. Now our customer flicks through instagram and sees one million different rings before breakfast and is looking for a large range in store.

» Have you noticed any new trends or changes in consumer shopping habits over the past 12 months?

Less browsing and a higher conversion. It is perhaps a reflection that they have researched the product that they want before coming in.

» Have you noticed any major change to consumer behaviour in the past 5 years?

Customers are shopping faster. Less browsing and faster expectations regarding the checkout experience is now non-negotiable.

» What trends are you anticipating in consumer behaviour and overall sales?

A big slowdown is ahead. Interest rates and general sentiment are looking pretty dire. Winter is coming…

» What is the most significant change to the industry in the past 10 years?

Finance options. They have all but eliminated the layby payment system and that in turn has shifted the Christmas period from what used to be a September warm-up, towards a late November peaking period as they can pull the trigger on a larger purchase closer to the 25 December and pay it off over time. This has been a huge shift.

» Again, thinking back to 2012, are there any products that have surprised you?

I thought that the Apple iWatch was going to impact the watch industry in a major way. The opposite has been true with the watch category improving over this period. That has been a surprise.

» Thinking about the Australian and/or New Zealand jewellery industry, if there was one thing you could hope for, or one change you’d like to see, what is it?

I hope for a return to a boring news cycle. I wish that I had no idea who the Chief Health Officers of each state were. I could live a happy life forgetting those schmucks, honestly.

» On a scale of 1 to 10 – how confident are you for the next 12 months in terms of sales and profitability?

5 - The market will slow and we will get close to a recession as interest rates rise. We are heading into an economic doldrum.

» What do you think might be the most significant challenge your business will face in 2023?

Inflation and rising costs. We will have to lift prices to match these and it will be a tough road ahead.




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Toby Bensimon
Contributor • Shiels Jewellers
Toby Bensimon is the director of WA jewellery retailer Shiels Jewellers.
SAMS Group Australia

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