When the Munro Group went through ANZ’s Business Growth Program, Managing Director Lee Munro realised that getting bigger did not necessarily mean better. “We’d grown a lot, from a small business to a decent-sized business, but we felt we lacked direction,” he admits. “The program gave us the impetus to implement a clear strategic plan.”
A shoe retailer with multiple divisions, stores across Australia and a dominant online presence, the Munro Group is a family-run business whose involvement in the industry stretches back almost 60 years.
The Munro Group’s growth over the years has been mainly due to acquisition. “By 2010 we’d grown to about 12 stores,” says Lee. “Style Tread was a really big acquisition in 2013, and it’s really our online flagship store.”
Each division of the Munro Group contains both physical and online stores. Some of the stores, like Style Tread, are online only, and Lee says that presents some challenges. “It needs to be very efficient, of a certain scale,” he explains. “We had to get Style Tread to a certain size, just to be able to break even. And not talking to your customers, that’s a significant challenge. Then there’s the logistics needed for any big business to work – the systems and processes that need to be put in place.”
The digital strategy for all their online stores, including the ones that complement a bricks-and-mortar location, is aimed at completing the customer’s journey and providing a touchpoint for the brand. “Style Tread is kind of our digital flagship, so it has a really sophisticated marketing program,” Lee says. “We use social media, online marketplaces – all the technologies that are available for online retail.”
Recently, the Munro Group joined ANZ’s Business Growth Program. “We were a good, stable and successful business, but we still had so much opportunity before us,” Lee explains. “We were kind of paralysed by the choices of what we could do, as opposed to what we should be doing. After the program, we came out with a very clear plan, and we can assess opportunities much more efficiently.”
In addition to the strategic plan, the program also helped the business to invest in their employees and their culture. “We needed to put more systems in place to get the best out of people,” Lee recalls. “So we’ve invested in our HR team – we went from not having one to three permanent employees. We’ve also created a new General Manager position at Style Tread, more Area Managers for our stores, and a new Digital Marketing Manager.”
The Munro Group also has their eye on the future, and their three-year plan is one that was developed as a result of the ANZ Business Growth Program. “The program helped us to make our goals more ambitious,” Lee says. “We see ourselves opening around another 25 stores in the next three years. We’re in the market for more acquisitions.”
So what advice does Lee have for effective business growth, as well as anyone considering an online retail business?
- Focus on your people and learn how to delegate – “You can’t do it all yourself, it’s all about the team,” Lee emphasises. “You have to build an awesome team. In the past 12 months we’ve really come to recognise this. The bigger you get, the more important the team is.”
- Pick your market – Lee says that understanding your target market and your customers’ needs is essential, and that you need to choose your market carefully.
- Decide how much you’re going to spend – “if you’re planning on a big online retail store, you’ll need funding to invest in structure and scale, because driving traffic to your site is not easy,” he advises. “If you’re going to do it cheaply – and you can do this efficiently, there are lots of great tools available online – then start with a small handful of products that you believe in, in a niche market. Focus on that small, specific niche. Good SEO and social media will help you develop a business in an online niche market.”