When Chris Lude joined as Chief Executive Officer of Anaconda, part of a large retailing family group, the business had 34 stores and an ever-growing product range. Pausing to set the long-term strategic direction of the business, an important question was raised: what does Anaconda want to be famous for?
The answer was simple. To be Australia’s first choice, one-stop outdoor adventure retailer, inspiring and enabling everyone to create memorable outdoor experiences.
That vision sits at the centre of an aggressive store roll-out that’s seen Anaconda more than double to 78 locations. Chris and the Anaconda team are seeking to continue growing the business with many more regular stores, expanding its online and social presence and Adventure HQ super stores.
Creating immersive experiences
From first-time campers to outdoor enthusiasts, Anaconda continues to focus on relevance and customer experiences that invoke brand pride and loyalty. This led to an ambitious goal – to create the largest and most engaging interactive adventure store in the Southern Hemisphere.
This came to life through the 7,500 square metre Adventure HQ in Chullora, NSW. The immersive store experience was recently recognised as a finalist in the 2023 Inside Retail – Retailer Awards’ Store Design and Concept of the Year category.
“We wanted to create a destination where the customers’ shopping experience is as good as being out there,” Chris says. “We have everything under one roof for the outdoor adventure person; that’s something unique in the Australian market.
“We thought, let’s put a 40-foot casting tank in the store and fill it with barramundi, so people can see how a fishing lure works in the water. We don’t have the hooks on the lines, so the fish are not harmed in any way, but it gives a real-life experience for our customers to see.”
“We bolted a game fishing boat to the wall and installed a fishing simulator so people could experience catching the fish of a lifetime. We have our very own jetty in-store, so customers come in and view the Boat/Motor/Trailer packages that we sell.”
“We have the largest artificial grass area of any retail store that’s home to our interactive tent floor, caravans, and four-wheel drive accessories. We even have a virtual reality ski simulator.”
Chris says that one customer the team spoke to had travelled three hours to use the fishing simulator. This reflected Anaconda’s objective to use the in-store experience to grow awareness and its customer base.
All aspects of the experience matter
To advance its purpose, Anaconda ensures all aspects of the customer experience are aligned. As Chris says, “Most customers research online before they buy, so your digital experience must match or be better than the store presence. This is where we are heavily investing along with our retail storefronts.”
“Content is king, and where people are buying bigger ticket items like a boat or caravan, they need access to the right information before they enter the store,” Chris says.
Anaconda also empowers its team through product training and getting them outdoors. “Given the research our customers do, they often know as much or more than our team,” Chris says.
“We look at passion for the outdoors and how that drives service and innovation. For example, we take our teams fishing, and run a campout for every new store as part of the onboarding process.”
Chris says sustainability initiatives are imperative as Anaconda strives to minimise its impact and leave the outdoors in great condition for generations. Since we opened the first Anaconda in 2004, we have been working towards having sustainable retail stores and products that use recycled raw materials, rigorous product testing, and reducing packaging and carbon emissions across the supply chain.
The value creation opportunity
Looking ahead, Anaconda is carefully monitoring the impact of macroeconomic changes on customer preferences. For Chris, rising interest rates or fluctuations in the Australian dollar influence how people travel and engage with Anaconda, saying that “it’s an opportunity to deliver great value for our customers.”
Chris recognises that while value can mean different things to different customers, it always equates to quality. He says that a first-time camper may not want to spend much money, whereas an experienced camper might constantly upgrade to the latest gear.
“This is where product range and innovation are important,” Chris says. “We often say we want to be ‘famous for first and best for new’ and that helps customers keep up with the latest advancements so they can get out and enjoy it.”
Partnering for growth
Chris says that growing Anaconda’s store network is part of “getting customers in the store and enabling them to enjoy the outdoors.” He says having business partners that support this vision is crucial.
Anaconda and the wider group have worked with CommBank since 2019, and Chris says having the capital to grow and deliver outstanding customer experiences is integral to realising its ambitions.
“We look for partnerships built on experience, mutual respect and a shared vision. The most important thing is alignment, making the partnership seamless and easy,” Chris says.
“That’s where we work hand in glove with the CommBank team, who are the first to support the majority of new initiatives we undertake across the wider Spotlight Group.”
“CommBank understands how we operate, and our commercials, and I am confident we have some of the best bankers available. CommBank has always been exceptional in helping us achieve our goal of being Australia's top outdoor adventure retailer.”