Born and trained as an industrial engineer, Andrew Gorecki got his first taste of the retail industry in 1985 when an old boss recruited him to run the IT department for a supermarket company. With no prior inclination towards the industry, Gorecki was a testament to the age-old saying that luck, fate, or destiny (depending on your philosophical stance) often influences the crossroads of our lives. He didn’t have a burning inspiration, but he was in the right place at the right time and rose to the occasion – a circumstance that led him to progressively carve out a significant role in the retail IT industry.
Unexpectedly, the engineer turned retail IT expert found himself in 1993 holding a startup named Retail Directions. Born from the instance of his former company McEwans being swallowed by Bunnings, a Home Depot-style hardware store, Andrew found fresh motivation. He buffed up on retail industry standards and with the backing of an industry specialist partner, they realized the blatant gap in the market. There were no high-quality software packages available for retailers, a gap they decided to fill. Their shared vision was to build the best retail system in the world, and that’s been the ethos Retail Directions has followed for upwards of three decades.
Retail Directions sets out to solve one simple, yet Herculean issue that plagues most retail businesses – terrible system infrastructure. Many retail businesses are crippled by massively overpriced systems, which end up draining resources and causing unnecessary recurring costs. These systems are usually a Frankenstein’s monster of separate components barely held together by an over-burdened IT department. In a great example of how effective this approach can be, Gorecki’s company introduced a game-changing solution in South Africa, lowering the department store chain Edgars’ IT staff from 150 to merely 5. Their fully integrated and moderately priced system platform not only saved money but helped in a profitable turn for the struggling retail business.
So, what lies in the future for the retail industry? Gorecki doesn’t shy away from the pressing questions on advancements and innovations in the next decade. His perspective is split in two directions: the shoulds and woulds of retail evolution.
Retailers should be focusing on their operational excellence. One does not need to reinvent the wheel to succeed, so perfecting well-defined processes and systems should be priority number one. Existing problems must be resolved before new ones start to pile on. And the hype around “cloud computing,” “best-of-breed systems,” or RFID often leaves businesses in more confusion than before. All three concepts, in his opinion, delve more into complicated “plumbing” than resolving business issues. The focus should be on simplicity, not complexity.
The downside is, Gorecki believes, retailers will likely still be lured by the latest “silver bullets,” often proposed by vendors and engaging consultants. This scattergun approach to technology will continue to lead to waste, confusion, and unresolved issues. Retailers must first master the basics before even considering these shiny new ideas.
In his unanticipated journey, Andrew Gorecki and his business partner embedded a clear ethos in Retail Directions – simplicity, real engineering, and an understanding of the retail business. This practical approach may just be the saving grace for many retail organizations in the upcoming decade, offering a correction and a return to the basics in a world constantly chasing the “next big thing.” With a career birthed from serendipity, Gorecki’s pragmatic focus reinforces the age-old truism, “sometimes less is more.” High quality does not have to mean high complexity and he’s set out to prove just that.