In early August, Erik and I attended a Property Council breakfast titled “A Conversation with Guy Russo”. The event summary promoted: “Guy Russo is one of the Australian retail industry’s most respected figures. As Chief Executive Officer of the Wesfarmers Department Stores division and Managing Director of Target, Guy is driving a critical restructure of the company’s iconic Australian retailers.” Admittedly, I didn’t really know who Guy Russo was, but his biography is quite impressive:

As he spoke, it was evident that the event blurb was no exaggeration. Guy was a down-to-earth person who knew his stuff and had the entire audience interested in what he had to say. His discussion covered a variety of retail-related items mainly from his experiences working with McDonald’s, Kmart and Target. There were many things I took away from his presentation, but most importantly was this: Stick to what you know.

Every Day Items

Guy is credited with the incredible turn-around and success of Kmart. Part of this success was clearly establishing Kmart’s place in the market. After visiting many of the stores around the country, he felt that the brand’s identity was lost and trying to compete with many others in various markets. As he stated in a 2016 article, “We were trying to be The Reject Shop as well as Harrods.” Trying to appeal to all income demographics in the market and make the place a ‘one-stop-shop’ was fraught with danger. The only time expensive items were sold was when they were reduced to half price. Kmart used to have garden centres, but there was no way they could sustainably compete with Bunnings.

This lead to the development of the company’s new brand promise: “Every day items at the lowest prices”. “Every day items,” he repeated. If you want plain white dinner plates, go to Kmart. However, if you want plates with fancy colourful patterns in a square shape go elsewhere because that was not an everyday item. There were many other things that Guy introduced to Kmart, but I’m firmly of the belief that redefining Kmart’s identity was the most important.

Further Reading

If you’d like to hear more about Guy, checkout this interesting article and interview below;