The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has announced changes to the ARA Council including the appointment of its first female President.

Nicole Sheffield, Managing Director, Data & Digital, Wesfarmers, has been appointed as President of the ARA Council, joining Stephen Younane, CEO, Retail Prodigy Group, who was recently appointed as Vice President.

Sheffield said it’s an honour to be elected the ARA’s first female President and looks forward to working with the CEO and the Council on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the industry.

“This is a pivotal time for the retail industry with Covid continuing to impact so many businesses in terms of supply chain constraints and staff shortages. We need to ensure retailers are well placed to navigate the pandemic pain and economic head winds so they can capitalise on Australia’s post-Covid recovery,” Sheffield said.

“The pandemic has highlighted just how crucial it is for retailers to have an omnichannel strategy so they can cater for customers whichever way they interact with their business. Technology and innovation play a leading role in our sector – from how we source goods and services, to how we interact with our customers. It’s important that businesses continue to harness the power of data and digital as retail continues to evolve.

“As ARA President I am committed to being a strong advocate for all retailers and look forward to working with the Council and CEO on ensuring the ARA remains a powerful and united voice for the industry.”

The new appointments bring into effect equal representation of women on the ARA Council and reflect ARA’s commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion and driving long lasting change in the retail industry, which employs one in 10 Australian workers – most of whom are women.

Drew Meads, Franchise Manager, Forty Winks, has been appointed officially as Treasurer after serving the last few years as Acting Treasurer. Steve Plarre, CEO, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, continues as ARA Secretary.

Former ARA Council Advisors Krista Diez-Simson, CFO/COO at Taking Shape. and Josephine Barbaro, CFO, Apparel Group & Co, have been appointed ARA Council Members, joining Sharon Beaumont, General Manager People, Communications and Safety at 7 Eleven, Jane McNally, CEO, Camilla, Erica Berchtold, CEO, The Iconic, and Sarah Hunter, Managing Director, Officeworks.

Katie McNamara, Chief Strategy and Customer Officer at Super Retail Group, and Maria McCarthy, General Manager Corporate Affairs, Bunnings have also recently been appointed ARA Council Advisors.

The new appointments join existing ARA Council Members Ralph Edwards, Owner and Managing Director, Bright Eyes Sunglasses, and Jack Gance, Owner and Chairman at Chemist Warehouse.

The ARA thanks Rowan Hodge, CEO, Andersens Flooring, who steps down after four years as ARA President but will continue as an ARA Council Member. The ARA also acknowledges the contributions of Charlie Davey, General Manager Retail, Leading Edge Group, and Greg Leslie, Franchise Owner, Battery World, who have resigned from the Council.

CEO Paul Zahra said the ARA Council is now 60 per cent female and represents small, medium, large, and major retailers with established bases across the country.

“The ARA has a long and proud history, but this is the first time the organisation has had a female President, which is well overdue, so I’m delighted to announce Nicole’s appointment along with our new female Councillors and Advisors who I’m confident will make an outstanding contribution to the ARA and our broader retail community,” he said.

“Diversity, equality and inclusion are core issues for us at the ARA and the Council’s equal representation of women reflects the strong commitment we have in this space and to delivering better outcomes in the retail industry more broadly. We’ve already established our Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Advisory Committee, which is our platform for change, bringing together a coalition of influential retail leaders to advocate this agenda.

“Around 34 per cent of ASX 200 board roles are filled by women, and while there’s a long way to go to ensure equal representation in that regard, the ARA aims to lead by example. Pleasingly, gender equity has also been achieved at the executive level with 76 per cent of ARA employees also women.

“I would like to acknowledge Rowan Hodge who steps down after four years as ARA President. Rowan has done an outstanding job helping to navigate the ARA through what has been a turbulent period most recently with the Covid pandemic. Rowan will continue to serve as an ARA Councillor.

“The new ARA Council represents retailers of all shapes and sizes with vast networks across the country. These roles reflect the commitment of the individuals, and the retail organisations behind them, to making a community contribution, with the Council members serving on a pro bono basis. We are grateful for their expertise and support in driving an ambitious vision for our sector. My congratulations again to the new appointments,” Zahra said.

Pictured: Nicole Sheffield (Centre), Andrew Meads, Josephine Barbaro, Katie McNamara (Left – top to bottom), Krista Diez-Simson, Maria McCarthy, Stephen Younane (Right – top to bottom)