Best of 2011: Biggest Retail Stories of the Year

By Claire Reilly

There’s no doubt that the Australian retail industry went through a big period of change in 2011, and that state of flux continues – consumers are buying new kinds of products from new retail stores, and in totally new ways.

So as Current finishes up its last day for 2011, we take a look at the year that was. And what year would be complete without a look back at the bread and butter of Current.com.au – all the top retail stories of 2011.

It was a year when new retail concepts were the talk of the industry. Whether it was online shopping, new big box-format stores, or new distribution methods – suppliers and retailers alike were keen for the news on all the big changes in the appliance and electronics retail industry.

The biggest retail story for the year was the opening of Costco’s cut-price, bulk-purchasing warehouse store in Canberra. Current was there at the opening, walking the polished concrete floors and bringing you all the info on just what was being stocked – from flat panel TVs and stereos, to food prep appliances, personal care and smalls. There’s no doubt that this franchise will continue to shape the retail landscape, and 2012 is sure to have more Costco store openings. Watch this space.

Another giant of the retail world – loved and hated in equal measure it seems – is Kogan. In 2011, the bullish identity behind the online-only retailer announced he would begin selling big-name electronics alongside his Kogan-branded product. This included Apple, Canon, Motorola, Samsung and Nikon. The company would not offer any details on its supply chain, and Current later revealed that products on offer, such as the Galaxy Nexus, came with certain strings attached.

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But it wasn’t just the pure-play-online retailers mixing things up this year. In November, JB Hi-Fi announced it would begin importing grey market Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras and accessories. Days later, Nikon issued a five-point response to the rise of the grey market, warning consumers against buying direct or parallel imported product. This story was certainly popular, and arguably received the most comments of any story in 2011.

One of the big topics that got people talking during the year was the rumour that The Good Guys were looking to sell. 2011 has drawn to a close with no concrete news on this front, but a leading analyst offered insights into why the Muir Family might want to sell the chain of stores, suggesting price erosion and new competition as factors.

As we head into a New Year, we also remember how this year began – with devastating natural disasters across the world, including terrible flooding here in Australia. One of the stories that readers really connected with was a photo series showing the flooding that affected residents and retailers alike in the Ipswich region. Here’s hoping that 2012 starts off on a much more positive note.

Top Five Retail Stories of 2011:

1. Costco cuts the ribbon (and prices) at Canberra warehouse opening.
2. Kogan selling Apple, Nikon, Canon, Samsung; including Galaxy Tab 10.1.
3. Nikon Australia's five point response to the rise of the Grey Market.
4. Why The Good Guys are looking to sell, risk to Harvey Norman.
5. Ipswich Riverlink shopping centre closed due to flooding.

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