Hill Street climbing mountains in Tasmania

BY Katherine Mechanicos
26 July 2017

How can retailers alleviate some of the growing pains during business expansion?

As the retail industry continues to adjust to various challenges, including a tightening in consumer spending, higher costs and online competition, retail businesses are under considerable pressure. Being in a highly competitive sector, the focus for growing retailers this year will be towards reducing costs, reinforcing brand value and improving customer service.

Hill Street are an Australian born family business, owned and run by brothers Marco, Nick and Nektarios Nikitaras and their families. This local grocery business has built their success on a passion for fresh produce, delicious food and a flair for retail. Hill Street has quickly become one of Tasmania’s leading food retailers with stores in West Hobart, New Town, Blackmans Bay, Dodges Ferry, South Hobart, Latrobe, Devonport, Strahan and Lauderdale. The stores are stocked with staple grocery items including fresh produce, meat, fish, wine, cheese and baked goods, with the Devonport and West Hobart stores encompassing a florist and homewares section.

The Hill Street business has been growing rapidly over the last 18 months, opening two new stores in the last two years. This sharp growth over such a short period created a dire need for good quality retail staff to manage and serve their new stores across Tasmania.

One of the frustrations Hill Street management encountered in the recruitment process was coordinating the sheer volume of candidates required for their stores in extremely limited timeframes. This problem is a common occurrence in many fast-growing businesses, and if it’s not addressed early, can have a detrimental effect on any retailer.

Due to the rapid expansion of the business, Hill Street began to work with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), joining the ARA Retail Institute’s Retail Ready Jobs Program. The ARA Retail Institute worked with Hill Street in developing an employment program that could streamline the recruitment process and provide a high quality pool of candidates for their stores.

The ARA Retail Institute employment program, supported by a team of program managers, trainers and administrators, worked with various Federal Government contracted job-active agencies to source appropriate Hill Street candidates, and ran their first pilot program in May 2016. The team developed a selection criteria specifically for Hill Street, which focused on the candidates’ interest and passion in wanting to work for the business. ARA Program Manager, Susanne Rose, worked on the Hill Street employment program and says finding job-ready applicants that are committed to a fast-paced career in retail is no small challenge.

“Hiring right for entry positions in retail is a critical first step in building talent for future growth,” Ms Rose said.

“The Retail Ready program streamlines the recruitment process, matching jobseekers with retailers, and providing employers an easy way to find talent.”

The five-week program is an intensive education and job placement service, upskilling talented people and preparing them for the diversity of roles in retail across Australia.

“The program starts with understanding the employer needs, and identifying their ideal employee,” Ms Rose said, “While the end of the course focuses on building skills to ensure candidates are equipped to meet the demands of the business.”

The collaboration between the ARA Retail Institute, employment service providers and retailers through the Retail Ready Jobs Program has generated long term and meaningful employment for thousands of participants nationally, while deepening the industry’s talent pool.

One of the many successful applicants, twenty-two-year-old Danyul Gandini, heard about the Retail Ready Jobs Program through his job recruitment agency and enthusiastically embraced the hands pn program.

“The pro-active course was able to prepare us for the skills needed for the fast-paced retail industry. It improved my confidence in communicating and interacting with customers in a retail environment,” Danyul said.

Loving his new job at Hill Street, Danyul prides himself on his customer service and looks forward to a future in retail.

“Once I acquire my Cert III, I’ll see if I can eventually work myself up the retail management chain,” he added.

Danyul’s story is similar to many Retail Ready participants, with 70% of candidates acquiring employment opportunities after the program.

Since the pilot program launched in late May, Hill Street have since run an additional five programs across Hobart, Latrobe and Devonport. Due to the success of the program and ongoing management of the volume of candidates, Hill Street have made the Retail Ready Jobs Program their primary business recruitment strategy for entry level and sales associate positions.

Keith Scott, HR Manager at Hill Street says the business looks at the ARA Retail Ready Jobs Program as a strategic and effective channel to market for candidates, with 80% of new staff sourced through the program.

“We were looking for a program that gave us the opportunity to have an input at all levels; from screening to final selection of successful candidates,” Mr Scott said.

“The program also provided us with opportunity to have an input into what we need from our employees so that trainers have an appreciation of the Hill Street culture.”

Mr Scott said the onsite work placements proved to be invaluable both for the candidates and for their supervisors, as it gave them the opportunity to see the potential recruits operating in all areas of their business operations.

“The two-week placements allowed trainees to become more informed about the business and areas they might like to specialise in, and some of the graduates have already been targeted for senior roles,” he said.

Hill Street will look to the ARA Retail Institute to assist them with their future recruitment with multiple programs already scheduled for the first nine months of 2017.

“At this stage, we are committed to using the ARA Retail Ready model for our initial recruitment as we continue to grow.

Our philosophical position is that we want to recruit staff who look at Hill Street as a career, not just to fill-in,” Mr Scott said.

Although, business expansion is an exciting experience for any retailer, the rising costs and dwindling staff morale can be detrimental to the whole process. Having employment services like the Retail Ready Jobs Program on hand can alleviate some of the growing pains that many retailers feel when in a state of growth.

This training is subsidised by the Department of State Growth, Tasmania. The ARA would like to acknowledge the Tasmanian Government’s Skills Fund job seeking program for supporting these jobs seekers into training and employment. Learn more about the ARA's Retail Ready Jobs Program at retailreadyjobs.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Mechanicos

Katherine is the Brand and Communications Manager at the Australian Retailers Association.

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