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Real Business : Winter 2008
14 REAL BUSINESSISSUE2,2008 dean golja of consumer spending power off the back of rising interest rates, it is predicted to continue to grow strongly. The sector falls into three main segments – food retailing, personal and household goods, and motor vehicle retailing and services. Larger retailers may comprise only 0.2 per cent of all retail establishments, but they generate 51 per cent of total retail turnover and employ 50 per cent of retail workers. Representing a first job for many, not surprisingly, retailing presents a comparatively young face. Experienced employees in the sector agree that strong training in financial disciplines is a clear advantage. “And, there are plenty of ‘wow’ jobs,” insists Bicknell who has a team of 40 in finance at IndUStryprofIlE:REtAIL SEctoR head office. Roles exist from store level through supply chain and inventory, to merchandising and marketing and in management. In the “improvement unit” at Mitre 10, a small team of high-powered finance professionals zeroes in on tactical issues such as refinancing through to acquisition of competitor outlets or start-ups. In recent months, company growth has spurred an initiative to go global for David Thomas CPA, group general manager of the Country Road retail chain. He has been clocking up the air miles to South Africa where the business has just opened four stores. Shortly after this interview, he was bound for Hong Kong and Europe. Travel is frequently part of the job, whether it’s negotiating with aDaM taLeb asa WoolWorths at just 24, adam taleb has been with woolworths for almost 10 years. he joined big w to work in the retail frontline while still at high school and has effectively never left. he simply switched the shop floor for a role in the support office when he successfully applied for the graduate program through the woolworths academy in 2006. “i’d always really enjoyed my job, and i really liked finance, so i just combined them,” says taleb who admits he thought retail was a relatively simple business until he stepped into the vast corporate offices in sydney’s north-west. in three rotations over three years, the graduate program has taken him through supermarket and big w finance and now into internal audit. “now i appreciate how complex retail is,” he says. “the program provides experience across a wide range of areas and i’ve worked on everything from general ledgers and reconciliations to reporting and data analysis and finding efficiencies. i am thinking about logistics and stock and what our competitors are doing, looking at sales forecasts and budgets … one of the advantages is it’s still very hands on, so i’m going back into stores all the time.” a highlight is working with people from so many different professional backgrounds, learning from marketers and people in operations, benefitting from the academy of training, support and feedback from peers and management. taleb’s mentor is the head of supermarket finance. he’s also currently undertaking the CPa Program. while he’s still deciding which direction to take when the program finishes in six months, taleb points out he’s no typical Gen Y. in a company with 180,000 employees, a range of businesses and offshore operations, there’s literally a world of opportunities and potentially a whole career’s worth of experience. he says he is looking to Ceo Michael Luscombe as a role model.
Issue 3 2008