Changing the face of Kiwi retail

New Zealand’s retail industry is facing stiff competition with an insurgence of international players both online and on the high streets. Holder of the Sir Stephen Tindall Chair in Retail Management at Massey University’s Albany Campus, Professor Jonathan Elms, is helping the industry adapt to the new challenges, while championing retail as a professional career option with Massey’s Bachelor of Retail and Business Management.

We asked Prof Elms to share some of the key issues and trends influencing the New Zealand retail market, today.

Professor Jonathan Elms of Massey University Auckland Campus

Internationals disrupting New Zealand market

A recent influx of large international retail companies – like high street fashion franchises H&M, Zara and Top Shop – is the most disruptive trend the New Zealand retail sector has seen since the advent of online selling. The arrival presents both challenges and opportunities for domestic retailers according to Prof. Elms.

“It’s giving consumers a variety of new and novel choices, and will really crank up competition and as a result, innovation in that area of the industry,” he says.

Amazon breaks Australasian soil and changes online shopping landscape

Buying products online is now an accepted way of life for Kiwis, but the landscape is still changing for both consumers and vendors. The recent creation of a Melbourne distribution centre by online juggernaut, Amazon, is set to intensify competition.

Prof. Elms warns that the impacts of international companies selling to New Zealanders online will affect everyone.

“We’re going to see the disappearance of some well-established local retailers in perhaps five to 10 years. For consumers, in the short run it could be nice to have all these products from different suppliers. Long term, we could see an erosion of choice because of domestic retailers going out of business due to international players using quite sophisticated online platforms. However, the potential fall of some domestic companies could motivate others to radically rethink their approach and become more innovative as a result.”


Retailers hopeful for lucrative Christmas after poor election year figures

 Lower than average sales figures were reported through the middle of 2017, putting immense pressure on retailers to generate more business over the fast-approaching Christmas and Boxing Day period.


“With the insecurity surrounding the election, retail confidence has been down. Around 50 per cent of retailers were reporting they weren’t projecting to make their usual targets,” he says.

The knock-on effect is an increase of the already apparent ‘Christmas creep’ phenomena where retailers are promoting Christmas sales earlier and earlier in the year in an effort to maximise profits. This trend is global, Prof Elms offers, but is most popular in countries that don’t celebrate Halloween with the same fervour as the USA, and as such have fewer sale opportunities between October and Christmas.

“Retailers are spending a lot of time and investment getting Christmas products out and promotions underway. It can be a really lucrative time for retailers who get it right, but if they don’t, it can be catastrophic,” he says.

Highlighting the skills shortage in the retail sector

After arriving on campus in 2014 to lead Massey University’s Bachelor of Retail and Business Management, Prof Elms established the Centre for Advanced Retail Studies (CARS).

“The objective of CARS is to help the industry to professionalise itself, change the often-negative perception around retail work and employment, and try and make retail a career choice.”

His position as the Sir Stephen Tindall Chair in Retail Management is funded by The Warehouse Group, offering him an abundance of opportunities to work directly with the industry to highlight the educational provisions it requires.

“There are currently three critical roles retailers are finding increasingly difficult to fill – digital positions, buying and merchandising,” Prof Elms explains. “A lot of big retailers are hiring people with these skillsets from overseas, and we’re not sure what implications the new government and their immigration policies will have on this… they may stunt retail sector growth and have a potentially detrimental effect on the industry as a whole.”

Forming ties between education, retail industry and the North Shore

Prof Elms and his colleagues at Massey University are working hard to create strong links between academics and the retail industry through the likes of The Big Retail Survey (an annual survey assessing the health of the retail industry and emerging challenges and opportunities) and thought- leadership events and activities.

Massey’s Bachelor of Retail and Business Management is currently the only retail degree offered in New Zealand. Prof Elms is excited about Massey’s Grow North initiative and thinks Auckland’s North Shore is a great spot for his graduates to spread their wings.

“There are some really interesting companies that have established or expanded themselves in the Grow North district – a lot of tech companies; large retailers like Mitre 10 Mega, The Warehouse Group and Vodafone; but also a lot of small, boutique and unique retailers who are doing something new, novel and different.”

Learn more about Prof Elms’ work with CARS here, and to discover more about Massey’s Bachelor of Retail and Business Management head here.




Dr Sione Vaka profile: Improving mental health services with traditional Tongan fishing model

When your own community experiences more mental health challenges than the rest of the population, something needs to change. It was this thinking that prompted Dr Sione Vaka of Massey University’s School of Nursing to launch a unique mental illness research project based around ‘Ūloa’, a traditional Tongan approach to fishing.

Why the Pacific community needs new approach to mental illness

Effectiveness of Ūloa Model, Dr Vaka’s research project funded by Health Research Council, looks at the prevalence of mental illness in New Zealand’s Pacific community, which is five percent higher than the general population according to Te Rau Hinengaro – The New Zealand Mental Health Study.

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Dr Vaka recognised Pacific people’s interpretation of mental health services varies as some use western medicine services like hospitals and clinics, while others prefer traditional healers, which are more culturally sensitive. There is currently little cohesion across the board and hospital staff often have little understanding of Pacific culture. Dr Vaka thinks a cultural framework is sorely needed.

“I’m looking at all the mental health services providing for our Pacific people in South Auckland,” Dr Vaka explains. “I hope to bring the hospital system, the traditional healer and everybody in the community together to look after mental health, and not have people working in fragmentation. The idea is that everyone works together.”

This communal approach is based on the Tongan “Ūloa fishing model that requires everybody in the village to play a role”, says Dr Vaka. It will be trialled in South Auckland and he hopes it will result in Pacific mental illness sufferers seeking help earlier, lower hospital admissions – especially via emergency services – and shorter hospital stays.

Addressing the shortage of Pacific and male nurses

Dr Vaka is also vocal about New Zealand’s shortage of Pacific nurses, particularly male ones.

“We need to increase our number of Pacific staff to mirror the Pacific clients at the hospital and the health care services.”

To achieve this, he says more Pacific role models and mentors are needed in nursing, which will come with time as graduates progress into more senior positions. In the meantime, he thinks services should be more open in recruiting Pacific students and new initiatives are required to educate young people about the benefits and huge variety of career paths available in nursing.

“It’s one of the best professions in the world,” he proclaims. “You can travel with it, you get to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends. It’s a lot of fun.”

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A caring cluster that takes you wherever you want to go

A series of reports by Jan Owen and the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) explores the New Work Order we are currently facing, and how we can help young people adopt a New Work Mindset to thrive within it.

The New Work Mindset lists ‘The Carers’ as one of the seven job clusters young people should look at applying their skills and capabilities to, with a vision of being able to move through various professions within the cluster rather than concentrating on pursuing a single job for life. Read the five New Work Order reports here.

Nursing is one of the 131 jobs within this cluster. Dr Vaka says the different jobs within nursing are almost endless and his own career path is testament to this. He started nursing in Tonga before moving into mental health, hospital emergency department, psychosis intervention, teaching and now lecturing.

Research start date on the horizon

The Effectiveness of Ūloa Model trial is in its early stages, with Dr Vaka currently going through ethics and location approval with all parties involved: Auckland District Health Board, Waitemata District Health, Counties Manukau District Health and the Pacific Island Business Trust.

“I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running, working with the different services and the Pacific community,” says Dr Vaka.

A new work order is upon us

A new work order is upon us – how do we prepare our youth?

“We are currently in the midst of the most significant disruption to the world of work since the industrial revolution,” says Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA).

It’s no secret that automation and technology are changing the jobscape at warp speed, but now we have a series of FYA reports shedding light on what this means for young people today and the workforce of tomorrow.

Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians

Big data to address big changes

Jan Owen’s research, undertaken between 2015 and 2017, produced an enlightening five-report series called New Work Order. Unique to the project was the use of big data – they analysed millions of job listings to gain valuable insights about careers and training. They poured over 12 billion hours of work by 12 million workers to get an insight into how we work and how we can expect that work to change in the future.

Why do we need a new work mindset?

“Our research says that a 15-year-old today will have 17 jobs in five different industries in their lifetime,” says Owen. Her work makes it clear that all jobs will change in some way by 2030, and it’s apparent the education system and the way we approach careers needs to change for young people to thrive.

Owen believes the current education system is already failing young people.

“In Australia, and I think the data is comparable in New Zealand, we have almost one in three young people who are unemployed or underemployed, with underemployed being the largest group. It’s people who have qualifications but it’s taking them over four years to get a job in the area they’ve studied.”

On the back of the research, Owen encourages young people to build a portfolio of transferable skills and capabilities as early as high school so they are more versatile and attractive to employers.

“Skills like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, innovation, digital skills, communication skills – they’re being weighted very heavily by employers,” she says.

By applying an algorithm to 2.7 million job advertisements, seven job clusters were revealed.

“Jobs are more connected than we think if you look at the skills and capabilities rather than traditional job titles or traditional industries,” explains Owen. “Getting a job in one of those areas of work could open up to 13 others.” It’s a matter of being able to shift sideways or upskill and move into another position within that cluster, rather than starting from scratch in a totally unrelated area that doesn’t share any common skills or capabilities.


How can parents and educators help?

“For parents, it’s really complex because it’s obviously a different world to the one they navigated,” says Jan Owen. “However, for those people that are in the workforce, their work is being transformed around them. So, parents are actually also going through much of what we’re talking about at the same time as we’re educating their children.”

Owen and the FYA want to educate parents on what challenges their children are facing and how they can assist them.

“Parents are the most influential around what young people choose to study and what they choose to do in terms of those pathways into work,” explains Owen. “For parents to have information about how the world of work is going to change and is changing today is critically important.”

The FYA is already implementing enterprise programmes like $20 Boss, which has 20,000 students participating each year, to help teach the aforementioned skills and capabilities in high schools.

Some tertiary educators such as New Zealand’s Massey University are using the research to inform the changes to their curriculum, teaching a broader range of skills that are relevant to a cluster within a specific degree, so that students have more options and a wider skill base when they graduate. This will ultimately provide them with more job opportunities upon graduation and scope for a much more varied career.

Why we need community-wide change

Changes need to be wider spread to support the work force of the future, however. Owen says we’re in the fastest growing region in the world and we have more hungry and ambitious young people than ever before, yet their connectivity and collaboration between them and the rest of the world is still minimal.

Common policies applied to everyday life are yet to adapt to the flexibility of a portfolio career too. Owen expands, “We don’t have a regulatory or a legislative environment that acknowledges that people are working in multiple ways. That flexible economy looks like an insecure, casualised labour market where you’re doing bits and pieces of work and trying to thread together enough work to live on. If you were to go with all your bits of paper and all the things you’re working on to a bank and ask for a housing loan… you would be shown the door!”

New Work Order raises a lot of flags and offers great insight and clear pathways for all parties involved. To learn more, download and read the five reports here.

For a more interactive experience, you can see Jan Owen speak at Massey University, Auckland Campus, Student Amenities Centre, 1/5 University Ave, Albany on 27 September  6.00pm -7.30pm, doors open at 5.30pm. For more information and tickets visit: 


Spotlight: Kerri McMaster Of Performance Lab

At the pointy end of the activity analytics and automated coaching field, Performance Lab is an innovative North Shore company providing tech solutions to giants of the wearable fitness device industry. Co-founder, Kerri McMaster tells us how their work is different, why the North Shore, and why looking out your window is good for you.

Kerri McMaster – Director at Performance Lab Technologies Ltd

A powerful transformation

When it launched some 25 years ago, Performance Lab was a consulting business gathering test data to assist endurance athletes in boosting their performance, and to help manage lifestyle-controlled disease in the public via exercise intervention. With a massive pool of data and expertise to draw on, Performance Lab set about creating high-tech automated and intuitive coaching engines for the wearables market.

“We provide artificial intelligence software engines to interface with exercise platforms and hardware,” she says.

High spec tech

Chances are you’ve already unknowingly seen some of them. Performance Lab partner with big industry players like Oakley to bring products such as their Radar Pace sunglasses to market.

“You can talk to the glasses,” McMaster offers, “You can say ‘okay Radar, what’s my speed? Am I at the right pace? What’s my stride rate? Is this the right intensity?’ and it will answer you as well as coaching you independently.”

How Performance Lab keeps the wearer motivated

The wearables market is awash with all manner of watches, headsets, glasses and monitoring devices, but McMaster says many users become bored of these products and lose motivation as soon as the novelty of seeing your metrics wears off. People want to know what to do next. She says this is where their technology comes in. It computes the metrics based on where the user is up to in their programme and what their goal is, and tells them what to do next. “We offer the coaching component that’s missing,” she says.

The AI element of their engines allows the device using them to generate a training programme; offer an audible or visual in-session coaching experience; and to provide post-workout coaching based on what happened in that session, what was expected and what is yet to come in that user’s specific programme. This type of recalibration means it’s suitable for everyone from true beginners who are likely to deal with life’s interruptions like work, sickness and family responsibilities, right through to professional athletes for whom success depends on an intelligent training regime.

Look out the window – it’s good for you

An avid health and fitness proponent to this day, McMaster was a self-professed sports fanatic in her adolescence, culminating in two karate world championships. We asked her if she had any tips for the chained-to-a-desk nine-to-fiver. In addition to three-weekly sessions of a simple activity like walking she suggested substituting something we usually do for a healthier option.

“Could be in the form of food, the form of your mental health, the form of moving… you don’t have to add anything extra, you just swap it out, make a choice that is more health-orientated.”

She offered an example, “If you’re based on the North Shore you are very literally in one of the most beautiful places in the whole world… take a moment to observe the beauty of where we are. That will positively impact your health and wellbeing for that day – just look outside the window!”

Triathlete Craig Alexander uses Oakley’s Radar Pace smart eyewear.

Strengthening the hub and giving back

As a member of the North Shore’s innovative tech hub, McMaster is excited about two things Performance Lab has on its horizon. The first being its imminent move to the New Zealand Human Performance Innovation Centre, which is currently under construction at AUT Millennium – New Zealand’s world-class sports training facility based on the North Shore.

“We will be their first tenant”, she divulged proudly. “We have a strong commitment to keeping the business network for the North Shore bubbling away. We must remain innovative and the best way to do that is to get all the best innovator’s minds and research people working together in one location. I think it’s a really natural way to stimulate new ideas and generate more lateral thoughts on what we think the future is going to be.”

The other big news is Performance Lab’s upcoming three-stage trial involving a handful of corporations and 500 of its employees. McMaster describes it as “a health management programme, which will utilise our automated technology. In stage two we hope to expand to 1,000 [participants]. It’s our long-term view that we should trial for an entire region of New Zealand and longitudinally look at how we can impact on hospital admissions, GP visits, and see what kind of long-term impact we can have on lifestyle-controllable disease.”

If successful, the trial will be another example of the North Shore – New Zealand’s innovation corridor – leading the way with work that benefits the entire country and perhaps the world. Watch this space.

Radar Pace is smart eyewear featuring a real-time voice-activated coaching system powered by Intel® Real Speech. Radar Pace will be available in stores on Oct. 1, 2016. (Source: Oakley)

Dan Walker cracks code on lack of young Māori in New Zealand tech

Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

North Shore’s Dan Walker has three passions: Māori, the digital world and entrepreneurship. In 2016, he combined them to great effect in a thesis exploring the lack of young Māori in the tech sector. As well as bucking the trend, he hopes his findings will help shape the future of the entire industry.

Part of a new breed

Originally from Christchurch, Walker relocated to Auckland 10 years ago and in April was part of the first class to graduate Massey University’s new Master of Advanced Leadership Practice. A commercial account executive for Dell EMC, he works from his home on Auckland’s North Shore, where he embodies the location’s move toward becoming New Zealand’s innovation corridor.

“I’m a technologist looking after the digital disruption and the innovation requirements of my client,” says Walker, but he wears hats for several other organisations, bringing innovative and forward-thinking solutions to them all.

The Stanmore Bay resident “gives back to his people” as a leader for his South Taranaki iwi, Ngati Ruanui; draws on his own fathering experience as a chairman for Whanau Manama Parenting (which runs value-based positive parenting strategy courses for around 250 parents a year); and as Chair for Indigenous Growth, he helps corporates like Fletchers and SkyCity create better outcomes for Māori and Pasifika employees.

Tikanga Māori values are the key

Māori currently represent less than 2% of the tech sector and it was this that drove Walker’s thesis: Tikanga Māori ki te Ao Matihiko or “Māori values as a framework for digital leadership”.

His case study focused on 2NuiCODE, a year-long Ngati Ruanui-run course that introduces young people to the digital world of coding, programming, robotics and app development. In its first year, the Hawera programme had a 100% completion rate, which Walker puts down to tikanga Māori values being at the heart of the studies. He identified the lack of relatable values in the digital industry as the key reason why young Māori don’t feature more, and why older Māori often seem to suddenly return home to work for their iwi despite reaching a high level in their field elsewhere. Sighting the success of 2NuiCODE as evidence, he concluded that, “If we can create initiatives that have tikanga Māori values at their heart, we’ll get more Māori in there [the digital sector] because they trust it, they value it and see an alignment with their own values.”

Strong values lead to profit


Another key takeaway for Walker was just how evident the lack of any values framework is across the tech sector. He believes that if profit is the sole driver, social and environmental factors will continue to fall by the wayside. He says by adopting values involved in tikanga Māori – things like quadruple bottom line, the environment, their community – the work of digital companies will be more beneficial for everyone. “Get the values piece right…”, he explains, “…you’ll get more engagement from Māori, but also much more engagement from everyone”.

So, what next?

Aside from identifying a core problem and offering a solution, Dan Walker’s thesis has opened the door for further positive outcomes. “We can now move past the negatives and move to the areas of opportunity for Māori in the digital world. The government is looking at a Digital Marae which involves having digital experiences for our kids and our elderly so we can really get that cross-generational wisdom being passed down. It’s been broken but we can use digital to start it again.”

 Walker’s thesis works in nicely with the Grow North initiative. If his insightful thesis and the exemplary work of Ngati Ruanui can be championed throughout New Zealand, he will surely be joined on the North Shore by increasing numbers of young and innovative Māori venturing into the digital world.






Professor Johan Potgieter is at the centre of almost everything in the Engineering Faculty at Massey University’s Albany Campus. Referring to it as more of a ‘hatchery’ than a faculty, Johan has created a hub for some of the most outstanding innovation, robotics, IOT (Internet of Things) and 3D printing in the Southern hemisphere. You can find him guiding and advising students, directing projects, and sharing his knowledge with the aspiring innovators of the future.

Aside from his teaching work, Johan is also involved with over 70 companies throughout New Zealand which he has built and developed alongside students, bringing their ideas and projects to life. He then helps students to commercialise their innovative products into viable and fully operational businesses, an invaluable real world experience seldom offered by tertiary institutions.

Some of New Zealand’s largest companies such as:

  • Fonterra
  • Transpower and
  • Auckland Transport are using the high tech robotics, IOT and 3D printing creations of Johan’s students, to further connect their communities and streamline tedious processes. Many of the inventions coming out of Massey under Johan’s guidance and direction are proving pivotal to the acceleration and effectiveness of key roles within various industries.

One of the projects that Johan and his students are working on is robotics in agriculture spaces.  Partnering with C-DAX, the team are building a robot that drives into paddocks to measure the length of grass with the ability to act as a farm hand.

IMG_4980Another key robotics project is a machine developed for Transpower, inspired by the Pike River disaster that sits inside power substations with the ability to detect faults and errors and fix various problems.

“At times there may be a fault at a substation, it might happen in the middle of the night and be located in a remote location which would take a human engineer hours to get to and fix.

This robot will be able to sit inside the substation permanently and not only detect, but resolve common issues so that are fixed more quickly than manual labour” says Johan.

Under Johan’s direction Massey has purchased the largest range 3D printers in the country and often run consulting and professional development training on how they work.

Creating everything from fabric materials to customised guitars and drum sets, Johan is excited about the future of 3D printing and how it will contribute to all industries. “One of the most exciting projects we are working, is building a machine that will be able to print a cornea which can then be transplanted on to a human eye. We do this by electrospinning collagen on a microscopic level,” says Johan.

Finding solutions to social issues are also being found in the engineering school and recently a psychologist approached Johan’s team to develop a product to prevent bullying. Hoping to create a more comfortable environment for bullying victims, Johan is working on a bracelet, pendant or watch that young people can push to alert a teacher who can then subtly extract them from the situation without making a scene.

Potgieter is tuned in to the fact that the tech industry is consistently changing and says he will learn from his students just as much as they can learn from him, “I can’t be doing what I do now the same way for 25 years”.

Recently inducted into the world robotics hall of fame, Johan is being sought out by large companies that are looking to implement technology into their processes and framework, and the exciting hub of innovation in Auckland North is becoming known for more than just the University Campus. See Johan’s profile on the Massey website here:



Are you an aspiring innovator? Do you have a great business idea? Tech Week is coming up and Massey University are offering three events with great opportunities to gain invaluable insight into the smart innovation district of Auckland North and get involved in the Grow North community. Led by Massey University, Grow North was launched to open the Innovation Corridor for entrepreneurs to connect with businesses and to encourage more visionary projects, cutting-edge research and courageous leadership.

shutterstock_522554203.jpgSome of the fastest growing new exporters are located in Auckland North, including High Tech Awards finalists for 2017 including EROAD and Performance Lab. Numerous successful entrepreneurs such as John Daniel Trask, who won the Hi-Tech Startup of the Year in 2015 and has had global success with his product RayGun, developed their skills at Massey University. Grow North exists to tell stories like John’s to inspire and surface hidden Kiwi innovation and develop a world-class university campus at the heart of the district that is closely integrated with the industry.

On the 8th May from 8:30-3:30pm, take the Start Up bus tour of some of the most successful and innovative global businesses in Auckland North who will open their doors and share their experience in the industry. Tour stops will include:

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This free event is an incredible opportunity to expand your network and find out what help you can get to test, develop and launch your business ideas to have impact on global markets. After the bus tour, Massey are offering a panel event at 4pm at their business incubator ecentre for aspirating thinkers, creators and connectors. This is your chance to get an inside look into the minds of New Zealand’s most experienced entrepreneurs and investors. Panelists include Rudi Bublitz of Auckland-based angel investors Flying Kiwi AngelsLance Wiggs, an Independent investment and business advisor, Greg Murphy, the founder of Unleashed Software, and Pauline Davis, co-founder and CEO of InsuredHQ.

Lastly, don’t miss the PWC Herald Talks at Sky City on the 10th May, designed to give you the knowledge, insight and strategies to grow and diversify in the ever-changing landscape of New Zealand business. This event brings you the latest case studies in innovation and provides insights to help you apply innovation within your business to make sure you stay ahead of the curve and get outside of the box. To see what else Tech Week has to offer, head to their website:

  • Register for the Bus Tour (only 35 seats)
  • Register for Amplify & Collision | Investors & Entrepreneurs
  • Buy tickets for the PWC HeraldTalks on Innovation