Tuesday, August 24, 2010

We're Not Tasmania!

Here is a very basic map of Australia:

Right the way over on the lonely left hand side of the country sits Perth, the capital of Western Australia, where I live.

The population of Perth is approximately 2.25 million. The population of Canberra, the capital city of Australia, has 352,200 inhabitants. Sydney, with a population of 4.50 million, is bigger than Melbourne at 3.9 million even though Melb tries to retain its title of Australian shopping capital. Sydney is 3,301 km from Perth.

Wellington, New Zealand is 2,229 km from Sydney, across the Tasman Sea. Bali, the cheapest and closest holiday destination for Australian tourists, is 4,623 km away.

Not quite NZ but not Bali, and yet somehow, when it comes to retail companies with multiple locations across Australia, Perth is treated like the black sheep of the family. Those kilometers open up a social and emotional chasm which results in Perth stores getting things late, last and in some cases not at all.

Perth's population and smaller tourist clientele equal much smaller sales potential than their eastern colleagues. To those who have lived and worked in the east all their life, these lower numbers are associated with lazy or unskilled staff rather than a geographically-induced difference in lifestyle. Head office staff (or 'corporate' as they're known in other circles) treat Perth - intentionally or not - as a mixed bag, a risk or even a necessary
evil! I understand that often it does not make financial sense to pour resources into a shop that isn't doing so well, but as I have so often lamented to co-workers: how are we supposed to sell stock we don't have, to customers who aren't there? In what way can we keep up to date and homogenise the store's look with display/merchandising props we don't have, for weeks after other stores get them? Short of running up and down the street attacking people with merchandise and fliers and screaming, "We're down there!" how do we get more people in our shops?

An annual visit, or over-the-phone conferences may make Sydney-siders feel as if they're doing their bit to help Perth stores feel more included in the retail family, but frankly, it isn't good enough. It won't give them a solid idea of what Perth stores deal with every day. Those in the food service industry, no matter where they are or what they're selling, will always have busy periods. Depending on your location, your target market, your product, and your advertising exposure, some stores only pick up around Christmas time! The Perth shopping spirit is a very lethargic and selective one. Those in power in head office need to understand and appreciate this, rather than blaming a lacklustre income on staff.

That being said, training should by no means be neglected just because a store is smaller and slower. If you want to uphold your standards, you need to give each and every employee the best preparation possible. And while you're at it, please stress customer service. Today, I bought a book which I'd had no intention of buying because the man in the counter was genuinely friendly, not only to me but to each and every customer who walked into the shop while I was there. Conversely, last week I swore off a certain retail outlet because I had been in there twice, and each time the staff did not smile or even make eye contact with me - when taking my money at the till! Training will either correct these bad habits, or hint which staff should have their hours cut down.

*gets off soap-box*

For the non-Aussies, there is a running joke that Tasmania isn't really a part of Australia, and the poor little islet is very often forgotten in political, social, economical... er, it's forgotten a lot. The title is meant to infer that, while Perth is far away and has a rather different culture to the rest of Australia, at least it's still not Tassie. Wink, wink.


  1. To be honest we here in Adelaide don't fare much better Jade, often ignored by the Eastern states head offices. We are geographically closer but that doesn't always translate to getting better service or people who are trained properly in the retail and service sectors.

  2. It's a bigger problem than just Perth, I'm sure. I just notice it because both of the companies I've worked in, which were 5 minutes away from each other, have the same problems. Never mind the fact that they have completely different products with an utterly different target market! It's a real hassle, especially when you're struggling to get a response from H/O, when you're trying to get stock for customers... bleh.

  3. Ugh that suuuuuucks dude D: I get aggravated enough as it is about Australia getting forgotten by global companies, so being in Perth must be infinitely worse.

    Go cut some bitches :(

  4. holy fuck, i love this! thank you for clearing that up (no, not for me. i live in this place!) =P

    i would "like" this if it had a button!

    we should all resort to the internet for our buying needs :P.... (okay not the same level as you as i live in sydney, but i understand while trying to buy fabric !!!?!!!)

    (actually reminds me. yesterday, went to a boutique 'old people' clothing store in my local suburb with my mum which is quite small and originally wasn't a busy place. the woman in there didn't really respond well when talking to her, and i think just because she doesn't own the shop. really, it's a widespread thing. it started up a rant conversation with my mum about how customer service sucks, blah blah blah. i think it's a pretty widespread problem. the ones i really hate is people at the service desk ignoring you to talk to a friend and because no boss is present they don't take the job seriously. and when you ask for something and they say 'what's there is there' especially young people, grrrr)

    sorry for huge rant!

  5. Porcelaine, that's hilarious about your "what's there is there" comment, because my shop doesn't have a store room, so we have to say that ALL the time! xD

    We do request stuff to be transfered in from other stores if somebody wants it, though. That usually ends in disaster, however :(

  6. oh! it's when they don't look that annoys me! like they don't look it up or try to find it... and it's even more annoying when you find it later!
    it's okay if it isn't there but a little effort is always nice like offering other alternatives or looking it up on the computer. but it's usually places like kmart or target and the young kids.

  7. Oh yeah! Shopping at Kmart or Target is always an adventure in itself, hehe.


PLEASE don't leave your blog URL in your comment unless you're linking to a relevant post. Thanks!