Managing Director of Kmart Australia, Ian Bailey, couldn’t quite believe his good fortune when he took the top job earlier this year. Not only had he inherited a great company that had been trading well for years, he was placed in charge of a brand that Australians don’t just recognise, it’s a brand they love.
Enthusiasm from customers — online and in-store
At a recent Sod ceremony in New South Wales, Ian received a warm welcome from the enthusiastic community. “We were digging a hole in the ground as a sign of the development works beginning, and we had people shouting out of the cars ‘We love Kmart!’ as they were driving past,” he says. “You’ve got to love working for a company where you get that kind of feedback from our customers.”
As well as feedback from the streets, there has been a great reaction from the public on social media. There are even fans — not marketers — devoting Instagram and Pinterest accounts to their much loved Kmart products. Ian believes this kind of brand loyalty is derived from Kmart’s continued efforts to put its customers first.
Giving people what they want: accessibility and lowest price
“If you look at our strategy over the last 8 years or so, it’s always had the customer right at the centre, and the core proposition of what we do has always been about providing the lowest price. We’re a value department store, which people come to because they’re looking for great prices on items,” says Ian. “We also try and make our products easy to access. So we have very long opening hours, compared to all of our competitors. We open earlier and we close later and wherever possible, we have 24-hour stores across the country.”
Ian acknowledges that there are some great retailers in Australia, but he isn’t too worried about competing with the other players. He says Kmart is focused on working out what it does really well and doing more of that, as well as continuously improving in other areas.
“We just want to be that reliable, consistent place that customers can come when they need to get their everyday things,” he says.
Keeping it simple is a fundamental philosophy that ensures Kmart’s strategy is executed well. With a large team of more than 30,000 employees and 190 stores across Australia and New Zealand, Ian says using clear and consistent language, having direct relationships with its suppliers in Australia and overseas, and maintaining its focus on a short list of important things that generate the most value has helped contribute to Kmart’s success.
Big on social responsibility
Ensuring the lowest prices doesn’t mean Kmart makes any compromises on its commitment to social responsibility. Ian says he really enjoys working with the large and diverse Kmart team and it’s incredible to see that everyone is passionate about applying themselves to the company’s values.
“It’s a really great way of serving our customers,” says Ian. “We take our social responsibility very seriously, both in Australia and overseas. Seeing the improvement in working conditions in our factories over the last seven years, particularly in countries like Bangladesh, it’s just a fantastic thing to see. The small contribution we make is definitely being felt within those countries.”
Kmart Australia key facts
- Company name: Kmart Australia
- Managing Director: Ian Bailey
- Headquarters: Melbourne, Australia
- Number of employees: 30,000+
- Annual turnover: AU$4.6 billion (2015)
- Industry: Retail & Wholesale