September Spotlight Mark Johnson COO Global Retail Academy




Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.

  • I have been lucky enough to have a retail career spanning over 30 years predominantly in the UK before moving to the Middle East in 2013.

Retail is my blood having gained a deep rooted understanding by working at all levels starting from the shop floor working up to the Board Room and most recently senior leadership roles in the Middle East. Having worked with large international retail brands across multiple sectors if I was asked what is the one thing I have found most rewarding over this time it would have to be seeing people blossom & grow into better retail professionals.  At the Global Retail Academy with an amazing team I now have the opportunity to spend time doing what I enjoy most by helping future retail professionals to learn and grow as they progress their careers

What is the Global Retail Academy?

  • Global Retail Academy is a soon to launch retail education site. Our vision is to be the Worlds Leading Education Site and we are working diligently in order to create a truly Global Centre of Retail Excellence. Global Retail Academy primarily is an Edu-Tech business with personalised learning. Programmes are being designed to fit the personal needs of today’s retail workforce, catering to the changing needs such as learning speed, learning style, and learning pathways. GRA will be able to offer a comprehensive high content quality and inexpensive library of learning programs that cover all functions and all sectors of retail through eLearning, vILT programs, videos, micro videos, webinars and much more.

Why launch the Global Retail Academy

  • Across the ME there are moves by governments to lesson the dependence upon the expat workforce along with a desire to promote retail as a career rather than just a job, in addition there is much across the ME that is impacting retail. Digital advancements, Ization and the current trading conditions are just 3 examples that are having a direct impact on training and development. Traditional classroom training is also expensive and unsurprisingly when margins and sales are under pressure historically training is one of the 1st departments to see cuts. Global Retail Academy addresses this issue by offering both Retail Students, Retail Professionals and Retail businesses the opportunity to get access to world class retail training delivered by best in class retail practitioners who between them have a collective experience of over 500 years

What are the biggest challenges?

  • Mindset is a problem and as such retail training hasn’t really moved on from traditional class room instructor led model that has been around since time began, the world is a changing place and retailers and people development is probably more important now than ever.In its most simplistic form a retail success model could be achieved simply by focusing on the 3 P’s, People, Process & Performance, retail businesses across the ME tend to focus heavily on performance and not so on the people. So retailers must change the mindset & utilise the technology that is available to help educate and develop their teams. Fortunately there is a shift happening with businesses realising that people and the skills people have are the most important asset of any business.

What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the regions talent requirements.

  • There is no shortage of people on the planet but what retailers need is good talent and competition for well-trained retail professionals has increased with retailers trying to operate faster and more efficiently. As such employers are struggling to find the skills that they need. As retailers we all need to take the responsibility to focus much more on training and developing the retail teams and not just the front end sales staff. To give two examples, here in the Middle East retailers have an ever growing inventory problem, sales and margins have been under pressure but because of a lack of knowledge on how to properly manage inventory the problem is growing. Same for Area Managers who look after a collective group of shops. If you are a good store manager you will probably get asked to move into an Area Manager role and over night find yourself looking after 6-10 stores. 85% of Area Managers currently doing the role are not operating as efficiently or effectively as they could be and thus end up fire fighting or simply playing the role of the store manager in different stores. Why, because the Area Manager role is a very different role to that of a store manager and uses a whole different set of skills, the problem is that there is a lack of knowledge about the role and as such the store manager gets thrust into the role without any development, training or understanding. It becomes a sink or swim situation.





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