Wednesday 5 July 2017

What We Need To Learn From Malcolm McCullough’s Resignation

Many traders have described Malcolm McCullough’s departure as CEO as a potential disaster for retail recovery at The Queen Victoria Market. But that only matters if the city is serious about keeping a CBD market for the future. I say “if” because the signs are not good.

"The science of market retailing requires professional retail minds."

The reasons for Malcolm McCullough’s departure are unlikely to be ever set in stone but he has said he is looking forward to returning to his first love - the customer . The obvious question is why couldn't he achieve that at QVM? The unwieldy structure of QVM Management, QVM Board, and City of Melbourne has shown itself to be ineffective in the past. Getting a City of Melbourne management structure to understand the intricacies of customer engagement, particularly in the middle of a retail revolution, is asking too much although they are probably not convinced of that. Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, champions our market, although on occasions even he has raised trader eyebrows when discussing retailing matters. The science of market retailing requires professional retail minds and leading with an experienced market CEO working with experienced market traders clearly makes sense.

"we need to separate the renewal from the retailing."

Of course there is a complication here. The market is not just adjusting to a retail revolution, it is also being subjected to a renewal. The renewal is necessary after a long period of neglect and it will benefit from City of Melbourne involvement. Indeed, the excellence of CoM planning and design people is a wonderful advantage for the market and the city. But we need to separate the renewal from the retailing and that is probably where we are failing. Clearly the two have to be professionally managed and in different ways with different skills and different mindsets. It could be argued that the retailing is more important because a renewed market that hasn't addressed retail realities may end up a complete waste of time and money.

"Not allowing him to pursue the necessary retail corrections is a significant failure."

Malcolm McCullough’s appointment as CEO was rightly applauded largely because of his solid retail background. Not allowing him to pursue the necessary retail corrections is a significant failure. Replacing him with someone without strong retail credentials would likely bring further disaster. The big retailers, Myer, David Jones, and all the newbies, are not hamstrung by compromised intent or lack of retail experience. They know that intense focus on retail is essential to survive in a retail revolution.

Traders need The QVM Board, and its CEO, to continue the critical examination of our relationship with customers and if micro-managing by the City of Melbourne is interfering with that, it should back off.  "Making A Great Market Even Better" will have little chance of success without a truly professional focus on retail customer engagement.

By Greg Smith