Christian Polglase, Retail First

The Shopping Centre industry is driven by people. It’s the skills and expertise of the people that manage, develop and evolve shopping centres for their communities that creates this great industry. Shopping Centre News profiles a range of interesting people from the industry each week. This week, we speak with Christian Polglase, Marketing Manager at Retail First’s Brookside Shopping Centre in Brisbane.

What is your current role and main responsibilities?
As the Marketing Manager for Brookside Shopping Centre in Brisbane, I see my main responsibility as helping make the centre better for everyone who walks through the doors.

How did you get into this industry?
I kind of fell into it to be honest. I was working as a National Marketing Manager for an employment firm that was sold and the whole head office team was made redundant. Within days of this announcement, a friend of mine who worked for Retail First happened to call me with a 12-month contract offer for Toowong Village. Sometimes, timing is everything!

Tell us a little bit about your career…
I’ve been in marketing services for more than 25 years in a variety of different industries from emergency services to higher education to employment. I’ve been in the shopping centre industry the longest, which is a little surprising considering I took the 12-month contract as a stop-gap while I worked out what I wanted to do long term.

What has been your hardest career decision?
Being made redundant is always hard because you never plan for it. While the Toowong Village role was perfect timing, you always question whether you should take it or wait for something more permanent to come along. Twelve years later, I think I made the right call.

What do you love most about your job?
The best days are always the ones where you’ve been able to make a difference to someone just by being able to ‘see’ them. It can be a struggling retailer who we can work with to customise a promotion just for them via our loyalty app or a customer who can swap a book for free via one of our Book Swap programs. Or even the mum who wrote us a thank you letter simply because both her kids received an individual letter from Santa. I learnt early on it’s the small things that make the most difference.

What do you least like about your job?
I’m not allowed to say the monthly report, so I’ll say the opposite of a hand-written thank you note. Everything we do in a marketing sense is made public, so if we don’t get it quite right, we have no shortage of ‘feedback’ via social media, which is not always constructive.

What motivates you?
Being able to work towards a common goal with a group. They say the journey is better than the destination and, in work terms, this is often the case for me.

What makes a great Marketing Manager?
Someone who is creative and can connect with a variety of people. I see our role as being facilitators of positive change, so they must be able to understands people’s challenges and then come up with creative solutions.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?
Receiving peer recognition always means a lot. During my time at Capalaba Park, we were able to pioneer a shopping centre loyalty app, which has since been rolled out in centres all over the globe. Its development and launch was a great learning opportunity and I was chuffed when it was recognised at both state and national level marketing awards.

What do you think makes a shopping centre successful?
Those that are able to channel our roots as the original meeting place. When we are the hub of our local community, all parties benefit.

Which in your opinion is the best example of a good shopping centre, retail precinct or place?
Americans do retail showcasing the best. Their big brand flagship stores are so good at telling a story and you can easily get lost and forget where you are. I’ve always thought Australian retail designs are too functional.

What do you do to keep learning and growing in your career?
I live on the other side of Brisbane, so I’ve discovered podcasts to help with the commute. Seth Godin’s Akimbo is a must for any marketer (or anyone in business for that matter) and I also enjoy the generalist nature of Stuff You Should Know.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get in to marketing?
Studying the discipline is always a good place to start as it helps you find what specific area you are suited to.

What do you do in your leisure time to de-stress?
I help coach my youngest son’s AFL team, although at times I’m not sure that assists with the de-stressing! Netflix is a guilty passion and I also like to read Jack Reacher-type stories to escape.

What’s your favourite retailer and why?
My wardrobe would suggest the Collingwood merchandise store, but I do like the odd visit to Peter Alexander. Their stores are one of the better Australian examples of the storytelling I mentioned above and they do a great job of making sleepwear we all love wearing (I’m currently a ‘Happy Little Vegemite’!)

What innovation would you like to see implemented in the shopping centre industry?
Not so much an innovation, but a mind shift. The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are fading as the likes of Netflix and YouTube become our competitors for the disposable dollar as much as the recently renovated centre down the road. We need to understand these market changes and be flexible in responding to them.

Do you like shopping?
I’ve been known to give the credit card a whack from time to time. I’m usually a very practical shopper who likes to do a bit of research first, but the fact that I am in this environment on a daily basis means I occasionally find myself shopping more ‘emotionally’ (Freddo Frog Friday anyone?)

About the author

Shopping Centre News

Shopping Centre News (SCN) is in the ‘information business’, and is perceived as such by its readers. Daily industry news makes a must-visit as part of the morning routine for those who want to keep right across the latest retail developments and events, while SCN's premium magazine is the leading publication for the shopping centre industry in Australia and New Zealand.

Known as the ‘industry bible’ SCN is printed five times a year with fascinating, in-depth features and important critical analysis written by known industry insiders as well as the popular ‘Guns’ reports, which ranks Australian shopping centre performances. Shopping Centre News is the only publication in the world that features centre statistics on Turnover, Turnover per square metre and Specialty Shop turnover per square metre for every major centre in Australia.

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