Hewitt Chan CPA, Retail Concept Director at Nike Greater China, says the retail industry is going through a time of transformation. He shares how he uses his accounting experience to reimagine store experiences in the region for the sportswear giant
What have been the three biggest lessons in your career so far?
First, career paths are not linear, and they shouldn’t be. My career so far hasn’t been a straight road at all, from starting as an auditor in financial services, to moving to consulting and then landing a strategy and innovation job in the sports retail industry. Based on stories of my mentors, colleagues and friends. I have realized that it is completely OK to “swerve” in our careers if we feel it is time to move on. Secondly, identify your support system. Throughout my career, I have met multiple mentors and friends who have given me advice and support. The first, yet toughest, step is going out there to talk with those who inspire you. Last but not least, never stop searching for your true passion, and trust your gut on what makes sense to you at different stages of life and career.
Tell us about your role and what attracted you to the industry.
My primary responsibility is to incubate next-gen retail formats in the market, which we call “retail concepts.” I partner with teams across global headquarters and the Greater China office to bring initial ideas to life before presenting them to the market. The pandemic has brought the importance of physical and mental fitness to the forefront of people’s minds. Sporadic lockdowns around the world have also drastically shifted the retail industry and how people do sports. In addition, China is continuing to go through one of the largest transformations in history as a result of accelerating urbanization, the rise of the middle class and city tiering evolving into city clusters, which sped up poverty eradication in 2021. This has impacted how consumers want to be served in the future.
In what ways has your CPA training helped you in your career?
The technical knowledge that I learned in the Qualification Programme built up my core capabilities as an accounting professional and also gave me a toolbox for stepping into the business world. Being able to articulate business judgements with accounting language has proven to be crucial, as it has helped me justify the rationale behind business decisions. I also gained important business acumen, which guides us to take an educated approach and logically identify the best answers.
What is your perspective on the future of retail in Greater China?
Since long before the pandemic, the most common question we have been asking is “what is the role of physical retail in the future?” Transformations in retail are expected to accelerate throughout the COVID era, in which consumer behaviour has changed fundamentally and permanently. I’m looking at how to keep the physical store relevant, and how it should transform from a purely selling space. Some common directions we have been seeing in the market – and are expected to continue evolving – include offering a seamless online and offline journey and elevated in-store experiences, and community collaborations.
What are your focus areas for this year?
We have seen numerous companies and brands both big and small drastically change their strategies and offering in order to survive during the pandemic. As we step into the third year of the pandemic, we find it equally important to go back and revisit our original vision and the commitments that we made to our consumers. No matter how external circumstances change in the retail industry, it is all about the consumers we serve – who they are and what they need.