IR: Will this store look and feel different from other Sheike stores, since it’s your first one outside of a shopping centre?
SK: It’s a beautiful corner site in the City Cross building [on Rundle Mall]. It will continue to evolve the concept that we rolled out last year at Karrinyup and Robina – really open [with] a lot of space to come in and enjoy the store environment and lovely marble finishes and brass finishes throughout the store.
IR: Can you tell me about your approach to bricks-and-mortar? What kind of customer experience do you aim to provide?
SK: We’re all about style. We want to be that go-to style authority. We talk about style when it comes to our product and our trends, and how we style them, and we really celebrate that style piece with our community and our customers.
IR: I understand you’ll be offering click-and-collect in your new store in South Australia. What are your plans for that space more broadly?
SK: We currently have click-and-collect in 20 of our 48 sites, so we’ll expand that to our entire portfolio, and we’re also looking to introduce store-to-door as well. This will mean some operational changes to our store design, moreso back-of-house around counterspace [to pack orders] and things like that.
IR: Was Covid a driving factor behind this investment in digital?
SK: These services were always very much on our roadmap. We always really wanted to offer them to our customers. For us to have a true omni experience, it’s really about utilising [digital] across both channels and bringing it to life in both. A lot of these pieces – click-and-collect, or store-to-door – really enhance her store experience and allow her to shop with ease. Just as we’re bringing some of those online elements into our store portfolio, we’re also [bringing store elements] into our online space as well. We’re trying to bring that head-to-toe styling experience that our store teams deliver to our customers online through live chat styling sessions and more content on the website around trends.
IR: I know Sheike launched an e-commerce site in 2006. How mature would you say your online offering is today?
SK: There’s no doubt that online is a major contributor to our business, and one that we will continue to champion strongly, just like our bricks-and-mortar strategy. They really work hand-in-hand for us. The goal is to strengthen that styling experience to be more reflective of how we connect with her in the store environment, but also continue to enhance her experience on the site via personalisation, dynamic merchandising, better cart functionality, and really breaking down those barriers that can hinder her experience.
IR: Beyond South Australia, do you have any other plans to expand your store network?
SK: We were quite fortunate, in that we continued to expand the portfolio during the pandemic. Last year, we brought five new stores into the portfolio. In the next few years, we will look to expand our interstate presence, obviously, with a strong focus on SA. I think we need to back up [the upcoming store launch] with conviction and service that state a little bit more. So we’ll be looking to expand heavily into SA, WA, and probably the Victorian markets. They will be our key focus.
IR: Given the fact that events have traditionally been a key reason for customers to come in and shop at Sheike, I imagine Covid had a pretty big impact on the brand. What have the last few years been like?
SK: It definitely was an opportunity for us to step back and work on the business. We all get consumed in the day-to-day of working in the business; the pandemic brought us the ability to slow down and work on the business. It allowed us to fast track some of those strategic initiatives that had been on our roadmap – management of our aged stock, for example, with off-price outlets opening in some of the DFOs, but also an online outlet that we could turn on and off as needed. We also ramped up some operational initiatives and pushed forward our planning of the stock.
But our main focus was just staying connected with our customer and our team during that time. We saw a change in our customer and how she interacted with the brand. Our head office really focused on brand-building and storytelling on digital channels. Our marketing and online team worked particularly hard to generate a lot of additional content during that time to keep her engaged and active with the brand. We also had our retail teams shift to supporting that styling piece online, and we had a lot of our store teams come in and work with our customer experience team to offer live chat on the website.
I think a lot of people got over wearing activewear; they wanted to feel good. Our customer loves newness, and she wanted the excitement of planning for events that were to come.
IR: What are some of your top priorities going forward?
SK: We really want to continue to strengthen our online and store presence, grow the portfolio and brand awareness in the market, and just create more genuine connections with the customer and the community. But we also want to remove a lot of the operational challenges from our team, so they can actually spend the time with the customer delivering that meaningful experience.
It’s so common that retail teams get operationally focused – be it through stock or the management of that whole process. So we’re exploring a lot of advancements in our tech stack to remove operational load from our team, and not just our store teams, but also our logistics and warehousing teams, and production. We’re making some changes to our supply chain approach with initiatives such as RFID [radio frequency identification].
We’re also working on a redesign of the website. In 2020, we replatformed from Magento to Shopify, so now we’re working on the redesign. It will give us the chance to enhance that styling piece, and give her more content through video, more education on our product, just a more personalised experience in that space. We’ll also look to remove some of the barriers around returns and exchanges. We’re planning for that to [launch] mid 2022. Hopefully, June.
IR: Sheike was founded over 40 years ago. How has the brand managed to stay relevant and continued to appeal to its target market over all that time?
SK: One of our strengths is that we do appeal to such a broad range of customers and age groups. Younger women are often introduced to the brand through their mother’s love for the brand, so we see a lot of mothers and daughters shopping together. But I also think the product is designed with occasion and life moments in mind, and these moments can be anything from your school formal, to drinks with the girls, to date nights, or family events, or weddings, the list just goes on and on. I think this allows us to stay connected with her wherever she is in her life journey.
We take quite a holistic approach to marketing, and we’re very conscious to drive a full funnel strategy, so we’re constantly building awareness and always driving acquisition to ensure we’re introducing new customers to Sheike. I think our digital-first approach in that space is led by our social channels. They play a really big part in the strategy piece, and I think this is where a lot of the younger customers are engaging with the brand.
Our Mother’s Day campaign coming up is quite gorgeous and shows how the product really appeals across generations. We have grandmothers, mothers and daughters wearing Sheike, and loving it.