We interviewed our winners from the 2018 National Retail Awards. Meet Mary Booth Owner of Wine Glass Gallery and winner of our Lifetime Achievement (30+ years of service) award.
Where did your retail journey begin?
When I was 15 years old my family moved from Country NSW to the Hills District north west of Sydney and I started work, my first job being in a Newsagency staying for nine years. In the later years managed the business when the owners went on holidays etc. Staying there until I married and had my first child – I followed this part of my life with casual retailing, then receptionist followed by office manager for four Specialist Doctors for 13 years.
After a few trips overseas and 10 months around Australia I decided to employ myself and buy a business which was for sale in The Rocks – Sydney. I operated Spring Row Gift Shop for 18 years 7 days a week.
What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far as a retailer and how did you overcome this challenge.
My biggest and first challenge was buying a failing ‘British Themed Shop’ which was in one of Australia’s Iconic tourist areas -The Rocks Sydney. I turned it into an Australian themed shop renaming it Spring Row Gift Shop, its location in George St was historically called Spring Row.
I had to purchase $20,000 worth of unsaleable stock from the previous owner….plus gradually make it into a different theme was challenging….after a lot of research, I introduced suitable product with colour and quirkiness + music, which created a friendly ambience along with great service. Within three months my daily turnover was seven times of the previous owner. This confirmed I was on the right track with my new venture and theme.
The 2000 Sydney Olympic period was the other big challenge.
What is the greatest part of being in the retail industry in 2018?
The greatest part of being in retail industry in 2018 is staying viable and responding to the ever-changing trends. It is enjoyable to seek and find new products, the constant search is ever present. It is interesting to watch the retail industry evolve with the times of the Internet and it is not always easy task. One must always stay vigilant to the next stage as it evolves. Competition is another element of retailing.
As a community what do you believe retail can do to grow and overcome the adversities the industry currently face?
The Businesses Community needs to encompass the new style of shopping that I believe is evolving – online and shop front together. Customers still want a ‘real retail experience’ some calling it ‘Retail Therapy’, however they also want internet shopping. Customers are wanting ‘an experience with a difference’ whilst they shop with an atmosphere to relax and enjoy – gone are the days of the harsh ‘hard sell’.
Like the ‘Big Banks’ – I think retail has to go back to ‘service matters’ and make the experience where someone actually helps the customer. Not just have the staff waiting to take your money at the entrance/exit like a supermarket.
What does the future hold for your business? What does winning your award mean of you?
My business will prosper as my overheads are minimal, rents are under control (but always a battle). I am confident my customers enjoy a memorable, personal and friendly experience with help & service second to none. My opening hours are constant.
I keep a full compliment of stock on the shelves at all times…..never need to go ‘on sale’.
Winning the Lifetime Achievement Award has been an amazing experience. It has given me and my business credibility amongst my peers, my family and friends and most of all with all my business associates. It has also brought attention and accolades to my shop from customers and in return has given my self-esteem a huge boost!
Once again a big thank you to NRA for the Award, plus a wonderful experience.