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 to Jenny Pike, the Retail Marketing Manager of Vicinity’s Altona Gate and Oakleigh Central Shopping Centres in Melbourne.
What is your current role and main responsibilities?
I’m currently the Retail/Marketing Manager of Altona Gate and Marketing Manager of Oakleigh Central (hubbed assets). Essentially, my role involves strategic, financial, engagement and brand management of each centre. This includes creating and enhancing retailer relationships to work in true partnership, and then hero them by creating experiences that resonate with our customers. All of this done with the aim to ultimately achieve the best possible performance for each centre.
How did you get in to this industry?
After completing my Business Degree in regional Victoria, like any cliché coming of age movie, I moved to the big city – Melbourne.
I had already been working with the Sussan group for four years, and attained a managerial role at Sportsgirl within Northland. While having a morning coffee with a few other retailers, it was mentioned that the Northland centre management was looking for a Guest Experience Manager. I immediately looked up the role and was knew it was destiny.
The mix of community partnerships, retailer engagement and customer relationships, all within a shopping centre that I already have strong love for, had me determined that I was the perfect fit. I remember asking a few people working for centre management, what it was like? One responded that “you will never laugh and be pushed as much as you do in centre management”. As someone that loves a laugh and a challenge, it seemed I had uncovered this magical world behind the scene of beautiful shopping centres and I wanted in!
Between my studies, prior community and retail experiences, and also an amazing Retail & Centre Manager at the time that took a chance, I was the first Guest Experience Manager at Northland.
This role was the perfect stepping stone into the industry as I needed to have an understanding of everything that was happening in and around the centre. The role gave me incredible opportunities to learn, grow and work collaboratively across many departments and surrounding organisations.
What is the single most important quality you need to possess to be in this industry?
The qualities I’ve noticed as a common thread amongst nearly all of the people I look up to within this industry is Passion and Empathy.
At the end of the day, we are in a partnership with our retailers. Having a level of empathy in which you can truly understand the retailers perspective and a passion to develop meaningful relationships makes working as a team so much easier. I’ve seen difficult conversations go by with ease and incredible new initatives developed with mutually beneficial outcomes all because of a combination of passion and empathy.
I believe effective meaningful change starts with passion and empathy.
What makes a great Retail Marketing Manager?
I think a great Retail Marketing Manager needs to be creative, multi-skilled, data-driven, strategic, adaptable and passionate:
- Creativity – to create memorable experiences and problem solve
- Multi-skilled – for any situation that may be thrown your way
- Data-driven – as data is power straight from the customers and retailers, and should be a key tool in decision making
- Strategic – to be able to identify opportunities to reach goals for both short and long term
- Adaptable – as Murphy’s law is inevitably going to make an appearance. You need to be able to quickly find solutions
- Passionate – as I find that retailers seek and appreciate (especially when times are down), the passion behind your decisions and begin to rally behind the passionate people they see that care about them. Passion can build an incredible culture in shopping centres.
What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry?
Be prepared, listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take the time to understand not only the data available, but the stories behind the people, the buildings and especially the retailers.
Find mentors. I’m very grateful to have incredible managers and mentors throughout my years, that have supported me in navigating the complex world of shopping centres. There are some incredible people in this industry with such a wealth of knowledge across multiple skill sets, make sure you can learn from some of their wisdoms.
What is the most memorable moment of your career?
One of my first initiatives at Northland, was organising the first Jobs Fair.
The Retail Manager at the time, came to me with the idea of a Jobs Fair after speaking with a retailer that was struggling to connect with local job seekers for upcoming Christmas casual positions. I took this idea as my first mission in shopping centres and didn’t expect all the positive results we saw. The following year, I expanded what worked, then learnt and adapted what didn’t. Since then, being able to be a part of the Jobs Fair evolution into an annual event, each year getting bigger, rolled out across multiple centres, now with workshops for job seekers and commercial sponsorships, is so incredibly exciting and rewarding.
Organising the first Sensory Shopping day at Northland was also such a memorable experience. Inspiration came from families that were using the Quiet Room who advised that they struggle to do shopping as things such as music and lighting can provide a sensory overload to children and individuals on the spectrum. We wanted to create a time that families and individuals with Autism can enjoy a sensory free environment to shop before Christmas. Retailers volunteered their time to open their stores a few hours earlier on a Sunday morning and we arranged for an environmental trainer from Amaze to attend in advance and provide tips to each participating store and us as a centre on how to create a more sensory friendly environment. I learnt so much from this experience, for example the trainer advised that non-verbal greetings such as waving would provide a better environment as the customer wouldn’t feel pressure to have to think of a verbal response. We received the most beautiful feedback from people that attended, with some stating that they hadn’t been able to shop together as a family in years.
While I have plenty of big memorable moments, sometimes the smaller moments like your staff gaining confidence in areas they weren’t before, or learning something for the first time, are also just as worthwhile.
What motivates you?
I’m driven by wanting to make a real difference. I love learning, problem solving and innovating to hopefully make things better, easier and more enjoyable for not only our customers & retailers, but also my surrounding team.
There’s no better sense of accomplishment then helping fix a frustration, taking away a road block, making something that little bit easier or looking at some data and seeing an opportunity. I’m a big believer in the saying “if there’s a will then there’s a way” and in most cases it’s true, you just need to get a bit creative and take the time to learn all the pieces of the puzzle.
What do you do in your leisure time to de-stress?
You will usually find me exploring new food adventures around Melbourne.
However, due to COVID-19 food adventures have become few and far between, thus making one of my favourite de-stressers right now, ceramics. Theres something so relaxing about completely blocking out to the world and focusing on making a piece of clay so perfectly imperfect.
I also love podcasts and am hooked on Business Wars, Reply All, People Fixing the World and The Dave Chang Show. I’m always on the hunt for new podcasts, and welcome any recommendations.
What’s your favourite retailer and why?
I have two that immediately spring to mind:
- Mecca. Passionate staff that are extremely knowledgeable about product, strong brand identity, a rewards program that customers go crazy for, and continuously engaging marketing. This is an Aussie brand that should be so proud of what they have achieved and really creating a point of difference in a competitive category.
- Lune Croissanterie. Where simplicity, quality and passion meet to create a truly incredible experience, not only for pastry lovers. Walking into their warehouse in Fitzroy (you’ll know which one by the que of people outside) everything is stripped back to hero a glass kitchen right in the centre where chefs are creating their pastries with the upmost precision. It’s mesmorising and the owners story is just another element that makes this place truly unique.
Do you like shopping?
Yes, too much.
However, my family hates shopping with me, because I’ll get excited and take photos of shop fitouts, want to check out the concierge and amenities, comment on wayfinding and pickup rubbish to prevent slip hazards. They hate it, I love it.
What do you love most about your job?
That every day is different and there is always something to do or learn. I also love the people connections and the opportunity to get creative.