Bernie Brookes is on the front foot.
The Myer boss has given a wide-ranging interview to Business Spectator after the company posted three consecutive quarters of sales growth and improved profitability.
Brookes says the success has been a result of focus on customer experience and reveals some amazing statistics about the ratio of customer complaints to compliments.
A year and a half ago Myer was getting two complaints to every compliment.
They get around 12,000 contacts a month, Brookes says – so that works out at around 145,000 customer contacts a year.
If Brookes was being accurate about that old ratio, and assuming all the contacts are recorded as complaints or compliments, that would work out at around 48,000 compliments and 96,000 complaints a year.
The current ratio, he claims, is four compliments to every complaint.
That’s 29,000 complaints – and around 116,000 compliments each year.
That’s quite the turnaround.
Despite all the headwinds big retailers are facing, particularly from the relentless rise of online stores carrying brands at knock-down prices, Brookes argues Myer has thrived because of its focus on “the experience”.
He uses premium cinema seats as a comparison:
“I actually think we’re like the movie theatre. You’ve got a traditional movie theatre and everybody’s saying it’s the end of the world for movie theatres, every body can download movies and what did they do? They came up with an experience called a Gold Class Cinema,” Mr Brookes said. “So, I think I’d rather put us into the bracket of the Gold Class Cinema. If we can improve the experience make it a unique proposition, something that people really enjoy; something they can’t buy on the internet or they can’t download, then that’s what will be the future.”
A note from Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research last week contained a range of reservations about Myer, notably its digital strategy was “taking two steps forward and one back” and concern about management succession with Brookes contracted until April 2014.
Somewhat encouragingly on the digital side, the analysts found that over the Christmas week, Myer (and rival David Jones) had more hits than the pure digital sites like The Iconic.
But these are far from strong green digital shoots – the CBA note said there was “much to be done” before the company demonstrated a “profitably scalable online solution”.
Judging from the cinema comparison, though, Brookes’s focus for the moment will remain the bricks and mortar stores. A cosmetics department with comfy theatre chairs, giant sodas and sushi to order, anyone?
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