Inside Retail: You lead the WeShow initiative, which aims to bring in emerging talent into shopping centres. Can you tell me what that experience has been like and the impact it had at Mirvac?
Kam Huckins: It’s an incredible initiative and potential new retail model, not only for our partners that have been participating but for the broader possibilities for the retail model in Australia. We’re making it easier to enter physical retail, be that for a digital native and first time brick-and-mortar retailer, or for a more seasoned retailer looking to explore further opportunities, to expand their business or to trial a new market or audience.
In a relatively short time (let’s not talk about #COVID or lockdowns), we’ve seen impressive results that prove how this model can revolutionise retail space for brands that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to opt in to physical retail. On top of that, we’re also delivering a more exciting and ever changing experience for our customers.
WeShow kicked off as a pilot in our East Village centre in Sydney’s Zetland, and within 12-months it expanded to another three locations in New South Wales and Queensland. Our first WeShow partner at Kawana Shoppingworld, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, was Zack Anthony Curran from streetwear retailer, Hipland. A young, local entrepreneur, still in the infancy of launching Hipland, he recognised that brick and mortar retail was the possible next step to growing his business. And it sure was, he’s achieved phenomenal results and the community have embraced having Hipland and Zack during his residency. This is evident in the impact to the business, both online and instore.
In Hipland’s four-month tenancy, traffic referral sessions are all up across social, direct and search, with overall web traffic up by 82 per cent. Total orders are up by 800 per cent with sales up an incredible 100 per cent. Average order value is up by 30 per cent and the brand has gained almost 1000 followers on Instagram, while increasing its email database by a few hundred sign ups. While not all of this can be attributed directly to the physical store, Zack recognises it has certainly given the business a focus and a momentum it would never have had without the partnership. This is all about brands delivering the best omni-channel experience and Zack is adamant that “WeShow has changed the entire course of Hipland.” The success from this partnership has allowed him to spend a lot more on ads and therefore drive more traffic which he has been unable to do previously.
IR: What do you love most about working for a shopping centre company?
KH: Above all, Mirvac doesn’t consider their retail offering as just shopping centres, but community hubs that not only provide to their communities, but offer experiences to enhance their lifestyle. The entire team, led by Mirvac Retail’s general manager, Kelly Miller, are committed to being a genuine force for good, proudly flying the diversity and inclusivity flags, so we passionately celebrate annual events like Mardi Gras and NAIDOC Week, and it’s always incredible to see how it brings the community together.
Personally, I’m part of a team focused on the future of retail. We’re actively making changes that value both retailer and customer, and developing flexible partnerships that offer both innovative opportunities for brands, but also an exciting and evolving retail landscape for our customers.
IR: Who is your retail hero and why?
KH: While they may shun the word “hero”, my decision to join Mirvac and work within this team was largely due to a desire to learn from two of the most intelligent and visionary forces in the industry – with sharp minds, conviction and undeniable spirit, Susan Lloyd-Herwitz and Kelly Miller inspire me to do the very best for the communities we serve, and challenge the status quo, asking ‘what more can we do; how can we do better?’
IR: If you could swap jobs with anyone in retail, who would it be and why?
KH: With a background in interiors, I often look to architects and designers who do more than simply plan a store layout, they manage to create memorable experiences with their retail visions – think Rem Koolhaas for Prada and Peter Marino for Dior. How amazing to ‘transport’ shoppers entirely through space and design!
When bringing this back to our own local destinations, I’m constantly inspired by our own Mirvac Retail design team and their vision – drawing inspiration from market-leading brands and designers across the globe, reimagining our spaces to create stores, pop-ups and activations that are relevant and that truly connect with local audiences.
IR: If you could change anything about the retail industry, what would it be?
KH: While not the industry per se, it’s the perception that online shopping trumps the physical retail experience. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t sit on my laptop and shop, shop, shop, but… there’s nothing like a truly great in-store experience.
Customers (and I’m one of them) want a lil’ theatre when they shop, and only physical retail can provide that. People naturally want to connect with a brand and immerse themselves in their universe. My team is focused on delivering a dynamic retail mix, unearthing the brands that do a fantastic job online, but who see the value in bringing their online brand to life in a physical environment. We know our customers want to see more of this, and we know that because they tell us, but we also see it firsthand through the growth for our partners.
IR: What excites you most about retail right now?
KH: Me? Hitting the shops again (and again)! Being able to interact with people and product. As a very tactile and (what others say) ‘people’ person, I love exploring, touching, feeling, getting into a changeroom, envisioning a new piece in my home, but also talking to staff, learning about a product and understanding a brand. From a WeShow perspective, the ability to offer our customers the chance to shop a new, fresh roster of some of Australia’s best and newest brands in the centres they love to visit.