Get to know retail expert Sue Smith


A successful retail leader, Sue Smith – Kmart’s NZ Managing Director for almost a decade – has teamed up with Retail NZ, to create a series of retail focused workshops for NZ businesses.

Sue’s also been in leading roles for Farmers, Country Road, and Curtain Studio, and has almost 3 decades of retail experience. Here’s why she’s delivering her expertise to you:

Being a small business owner is not easy, so I wanted to offer anyone who was interested the benefit from my years in retail”

We spoke to Sue, on her extensive retail career, her take on the retail landscape, and for any expert advice she has for you.


How did you get started in retail?

I started my career in manufacturing of apparel, after finishing a Bachelor of Fashion. The apparel manufacturing industry was going through major change and many businesses were closing, with the opening up of imports being allowed into NZ. I applied for a job at Woolworths as a buyer and that commenced my career in retail.

How has working for a successful retail leader shaped you?

My first mentor was Dave Riddle at Woolworths taught me how to negotiate with win-win outcomes and how to build strategic relationships with suppliers. This has assisted me greatly throughout my career. Since then I have worked with a number of  leaders at all levels who have influenced me to help me become a more successful leader by showing me what creates success and what does not.

What creates success?

Recognising talent within your team or helping direct a team member develop and grow. I have been a mentor to a number of people during my career. Key things I like to share as a mentor are self-belief and confidence in your own abilities and never being afraid of feedback as this is the only mechanism to grow and learn.


What’s the best thing about working in retail?

What I love about working in retail is waking up each morning knowing that I will learn something new, I will meet new people, I will help my team learn and grow, and that because of the work of my team and I, customers will feel happier about their experience in retail.

Why have you teamed up with Retail NZ?

Retail NZ and my own vision were much aligned. New Zealand has a wonderful industry of small retailers that make up the sensational landscape in our small country giving the consumers fantastic shopping choice. Being a small business owner is not easy, so I want to offer anyone who is interested the benefit from my years as a retailer to help them to become even more world class.


Pro tip for today’s retailers: “Keep looking for opportunities to improve – be focused and disciplined about everything you do. Measure everything that creates impact and look for ways to be better tomorrow than you were today.”

Sue’s pilot workshop helped retailers how to be the very best.  It was a success in 2017. In 2018, we will rolling out workshops throughout the year.

Click here to find out more about these retail workshops:

  • Retail Planning and Strategy
  • Retail Product and Merchandising
  • Selling Successfully While Knowing Your Legal Obligations


“Fabulous! Keen to hear more from Sue, she was extremely knowledgeable. I could learn lots from her. More please!” – Rach Negus from eKo

“Good relevance for us hearing about real stories from Kmart” – Geoff Hutchinson from Backdoor surf

“I look forward to the following 2 seminars for this series” – Toni Negus from eKo

“Great communicator” – Noelle Davies from Le Monde

Sue quotes the Dalai Lama “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new”

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