Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and bred in Armidale and have lived here all my life. In fact, there are currently four generations of my family living here. My grandmother turns 100 this year! I went to Newling for my primary schooling and then to Armidale High. I was school captain in my final year at AHS and that experience provided me with a good grounding in leadership which I have built on over the years. I’ve always played a lot of sport, hockey, basketball, softball, soccer, running … sport is in my blood I suppose you could say. Before entering retail, I gained experience in the banking sector and also in HR.
What does Intersport Armidale do?
Intersport is a global franchise operation. While the headquarters are in Europe and the Australian head office is located in Melbourne, each store is locally owned and operated and regional Australia is where Intersport wants to be. We provide a wide range of sporting equipment, clothing and school wear at reasonable prices due to Intersport’s global buying power. They’re really great to be part of – they’re here for us – the franchisees – there is a tremendous community spirit and a focus on helping the customer.
When did you start your business?
We started out in 2003 as Struddy’s Sports and then moved to Independent Sports, which was a different franchise but led us to Intersport. Next year will mark 10 years with the Independent/Intersport franchise. I love being part of this group!
What have been some of your challenges in starting a business?
At the start, I was one of the only women in this industry – the only owner/manager – and it was a huge challenge. The sporting industry was in need of more women to participate in buying for stores, which was great timing for me. Women are now one of sport’s biggest consumers, so when buying this is a keen focus for our group. For Intersport, I’ve been on the Australian buying panel for footwear and apparel for women for a number of years and love this part of the business – unfortunately due to COVID this is not possible at the moment.
Another challenge is forecasting. Everything you see in the shop is ordered 12 months in advance – minimum. We have to try to predict what styles and colours people will buy for the next 12 months. We’re actually looking at a 2-year cycle for stock ordering and receipt. Added to this, factories are not operating at full capacity at the moment due to COVID.
When you look at the last four or five years with a major drought, bushfires and now COVID, any business still going has done well. I think every businessperson has a lot of sleepless nights strategising and working out the best way forward. Not being able to travel makes it more difficult for us because we are now having to order our stock without the benefit of going to the buyers’ conferences – mostly down in Melbourne. There is no opportunity to see the items, let alone touch them, feel them and assess the quality – and I am a fussy buyer!
What do you like most about running your own business?
I love seeing my customers come into the store, especially in January when we do all the back-to-school uniforms, and I see the look on a little kindergartener’s face when they look in the mirror. They look so grown up all of a sudden. I love coming to work – I struggle to be at home. I love meeting all the different people who come into the store from all over the country.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
If you are starting a franchise, look into the franchise as much as possible. Be prepared for the long haul – set goals. Ask yourself if you are suited to the industry. Be adaptable – every day is different, so you need to be able to think on your feet and move through the good days as well as the bad days. Value your customers and it will be reciprocated.
What inspires you?
That’s a very good question! I just like to get up every day and get into it. I’ve got a purpose, so I think the inspiring thing for me is knowing that I’ve got somewhere to be and somewhere to go. My staff here are all great, so I love coming in every day and seeing them. Overall, I think I’m pretty lucky and I’m able to ‘just get on with it’.
What is your secret for success?
I’m totally honest with my customers – I don’t sell for the sake of selling. I’m also a problem solver – I don’t let things beat me. If there is a problem, I always think that the best thing is to look at it and work out a way around it. Having a relationship with the different brands is definitely a thing that works in my favour.
What’s next for Intersport Armidale?
Intersport as the brand is expanding in Australia. We’re really marking time to some degree due to COVID and working with the big brands as best we can– it’s difficult to commit to going to meetings and trade shows due to the uncertainty. At the local level, we’ll continue to be a strong local presence and sponsor various clubs and associations, continue with our provision of school uniforms and just be there for the locals … hopefully providing the New England with the goods they want and need.