TDC&Co Retail Therapy

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

Good advice is hard to find. There’s a lot of solid advice out there in the form of motivational guru talk and social media memes, but it all seems a bit empty without context. Even an often-quoted sage like Confucius came up with advice like, “Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognised moral qualities of men.” Not women, then? Well, it was 2500 years ago, so let’s assume we’ve moved on.

At TDC&Co, we’re constantly working with some amazing, inspiring people – each with their own valuable experiences of working in the demanding world of retail. So, imagine if you could go for a 20-minute coffee with one of them. What would you ask? Would you talk trends or look for personal advice? Or both?

We asked 3 of our favourite people in retail the same questions – some personal, some about life in general, and some more specifically about retail – and the result was fascinating.


Sharon heads up the showroom channel for leading South African online home-shopping retailer, HomeChoice. She has been working in retail since she was 16 and finds herself in the fortunate position to be working for a company that truly values its employees. Having barely finished secondary school, Sharon was schooled on the job and literally worked her way up from the bottom. She ascribes her success to her ambition and drive – and the fact that she had a very clear view of what she wanted to do from a very young age.

 

1. What has been the single biggest challenge of your career, but that has also turned out to be your biggest game-changer?

Being taken seriously and not coming across as a complete bitch in a male-dominated environment.

 

2. In the last 5 years, what change of mindset/lifestyle has most improved the quality of your life

Balance – the realisation that prioritising family makes for a happier home and work environment – also eat less, drink less and exercise more.

 

3. What advice would you give a young woman, fresh out of university, about the “real world” of work? What advice would you tell her to ignore?

Be confident and brave.  Trust in your own ability – you’ll be surprised at how little people really know – don’t assume they know more than you do. Ignore anyone that tells you, “no”, or, “It’s not possible.” Everything is possible. It’s your choice to make it work.

 

4. What purchase of R500 or less has had the most positive impact on your life in the last year?

My Clarins foundation. It hides the late nights!

 

5. How important is a retail environment in your daily life, whether in-store or online?

It’s such a big part of my day. What I appreciate most about retail is great authentic service, not textbook but real, positive retail interaction.

 

6. How has the dynamic between online and in-store changed in your field in the last 5 years?

Massively! We are moving into a complete omnichannel environment, which is very exciting for me coming out of predominantly bricks and mortar.

 

7. Where do you see retail 5 years from now?

I think showrooming will play a big part in building the omnichannel retail experience. Researching online and purchasing in store – the human element will always win.

 

8. If you could place a big ad in a public space, where would it be, what would it say and why?

It would be on the back of a bus or taxi and it would say:

Smile and Be Happy
Nothing is ever as bad as you think it is

Why? We all take life far too seriously.


Ilze has spearheaded some of TDC&Co’s most iconic store designs, like the award-winning Makro in Fourways, Johannesburg, and the nationwide Sportsmans Warehouse Mall Concept. She also designed the showrooms for leading South African interior brands, Tiletoria and Hertex, and is currently working with a major retailer on a revamp that will mark a string of firsts on the South African big-box retail landscape. Before she knew what she wanted to do when she grew up, Ilze did a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. But her love of beautiful spaces led her to pursue interior design.

 

1. What has been the single biggest challenge of your career, but that has also turned out to be your biggest game-changer?

Working for a difficult boss. Boy, that teaches you grit! And grit, well, that can get you places!

 

2. In the last 5 years, what change of mindset/lifestyle has most improved the quality of your life.

The idea that I have power over the thoughts that run through my head, the energy I project and the people I want to surround myself with. It’s liberating to know that if something is out of sync in my daily routine, it can usually be ‘fixed’ simply by tuning in to that ‘power’.

 

3. What advice would you give a young woman, fresh out of university, about the “real world” of work? What advice would you tell her to ignore?

I would tell her to not try and prove anything. You were employed because someone saw potential in you, and fresh out of university that’s all you need. Potential. Make yourself a blank canvas and see what happens. As for what to ignore, every office has “Negative Nelly”. Steer clear of those and stay focused on your goals within the company and the relationships you would like to secure with your colleagues.

 

4. What purchase of R500 or less has had the most positive impact on your life in the last year?

An iTunes purchase of $9.99 on Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things. I wouldn’t say I’ve become a minimalist because of it, but it made me so aware of how easily I accumulate things that add no meaning or value to my life. I have also decluttered the house, and do feel ‘lighter’. My husband is just happy he managed not to be thrown out or donated too!

 

5. How important is a retail environment in your daily life, whether in-store or online?

I appreciate a seamless, clean and functional retail environment. I love a space, whether online or in store, where it is clear that thought has been given to how the customer will perceive and experience the environment they’ve entered. What memories do they walk away with?

 

6. How has the dynamic between online and in-store changed in your field in the last 5 years?

As a Retail Interior Designer, I thought I was getting pretty good at perfecting the retail design recipe. These days, I feel like I’m baking blind! Every brand, every client, every customer has such different and such specific needs. Customers naturally drive everything we do, and with the world of Instagram, YouTube and all things digital, their demands change as quickly as the weather. There is also a huge technological component to retail that we’re all adapting to as we go. It’s happening so quickly that by the time a store opens, the technology is already so 2017. But we’re learning and having fun with all the possibilities!

 

7. Where do you see retail 5 years from now?

Up there, floating in a cloud made of bricks and mortar. We’ll just adapt.

 

8. If you could place a big ad in a public space, where would it be, what would it say and why?

Complain Less. Smile More.This billboard actually exists on a major highway in Joburg. Just a white background, large black letters. No branding. No advertising. Just someone who thought that’s a good way to spend their money. Simple, clear message. Enough said.


Reinette is a true ambassador for The Foschini Group (TFG). In fact, she has built her entire, two-decade-strong career at the company. She is currently the Visual Merchandise Manager for Sportscene, which means that she heads up and designs all in-store visual aspects and new store layouts. Added to that, she is also responsible for creating, developing and implementing all visual merchandising programmes.

 

1. In the last 5 years, what change of mindset/lifestyle has most improved the quality of your life?

Get things done NOW! I had to learn to let go, and not to try and do it all by myself. That was quite difficult on its own, but once I realised how much I can empower people through training and development, it made my life so much easier. It enabled me to focus on bigger things while the train is still going.

 

2. What advice would you give a young woman, fresh out of university, about the “real world” of work?

Never assume things got done the way you thought it was supposed to be done. You have to double-check yourself and ALWAYS work from the facts.Don’t get emotional or let your personal feelings overrule your judgement.Stick to the facts and always make the best decision for the business. There is no such thing as failure. You can only improve on your previous effort.

 

3. What advice would you tell her to ignore?

There is no such thing as ”I can’t” or “it can’t be done”. There is always a way.So, if anyone tells you something can’t be done, ignore it.

 

4. What purchase of R500 or less has had the most positive impact on your life in the last year?

Comet fish at the local pet shop! After a hectic day, to sit next to their pond under the tree and to watch them being so peaceful is one of the most calming things to do.

 

5. How important is a retail environment in your daily life, whether in-store or online?

In my career, it is vital to really understand retail and to stay up to date with trends and movements. Staff, customer, visual, design – all of that. In my personal life, I don’t go to malls if I don’t have to.

 

6. Where do you see retail 5 years from now?

Extremely technology orientated, very focused on the green theme, and very customer orientated. The retailer that would be able to offer the best, most convenient and personal service (online or in-store) would be the winner in that space.

 

7. If you could place a big ad in a public space, where would it be, what would it say and why?

“You’re still a rock star”. I whisper it to myself as I take my multivitamin and climb in bed at 9:45 pm! No seriously, I would put this on a billboard:

“It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lighting in the hand.”

Apache saying

You don’t always have to shout and scream to get things done. Do what you do best and never stop until you’re proud of it!

 

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