ARA President end of year message: Nicole Sheffield

For the past 3 years, our community has been living in crisis mode through the pandemic, natural disasters, war and inflation. The ARA has ensured the retail community has had a strong and united voice.

Despite these challenges, we can close the year with great pride around what our community has achieved – inspired by the leadership of ARA CEO Paul Zahra and his team, and the ARA Council. When Paul first took the reins as CEO at the ARA in April 2020, the conversation was around how retail needed greater visibility as a sector; to have a unified voice and the attention of government.

The ARA wanted retail to be seen as an aspirational career – particularly for women. We wanted to reposition the conversation around persistent rumours that in-store retail was ‘dying’ – to a sector that was innovative, resilient and adaptive to the changing needs of consumers.

As this year draws to a close, it is evident that retail is one of the most visible industry sectors – our impact on the national economic fortunes, employment and the overall pride and wellbeing of the country is clear.

Over the past year, the ARA has continued to galvanise the industry around people, planet and profit – delivering a record financial performance, which has been reinvested into the industry towards purpose-based initiatives including sustainability and Diversity, Equality & Inclusion (DE&I).

DE&I is a key value at the ARA. We are proud to have established an industry-wide committee, which engages the C-suite of our largest employers and helped to develop the industry’s first gender equality position statement. A joint scholarship with Chief Executive Women was also introduced in 2022, while the ARA released its Reconciliation Action Plan, outlining initiatives that will be delivered to increase opportunities for First Nations businesses, entrepreneurs, and job seekers. We are also driving a high impact sustainability program.

Moving out of crisis, we’re working to our ambitious 5-year strategic vision, developed after engagement with the ARA team, Council and members. We are pleased to be meeting or exceeding our goals in most areas.

Scoring a coveted 8 /10 net promoter score, the ARA has highly-engaged members that turn to the ARA for advice – from legal and leasing to employment relations, sustainability and diversity, equality and inclusion. Thank you to all ARA members for your ongoing support and vote of confidence in the ARA.

Almost a full year into the role of ARA President – I’m continually amazed by the work of the organisation and what it does to support members and advocate their interests.

Next year, the ARA will celebrate 120 years of informing, advocating, educating and unifying the retail industry. We have much to be proud of, and much to build upon to ensure ongoing success.

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