Nat Cooper – Expert change-maker in retail merchandise and supply chain execution
Having worked in retail for his entire 30-year career, Nat Cooper is an accomplished industry professional, with specialist experience across merchandise, supply chain, project, programme and change management roles within several successful publicly listed organisations.
Nat looks at retail as a simple model – buy, move and sell. He spent the first 6 years of his career in selling, the next 18 years in buying, and 6 years so far in the moving part of retail.
“In my current role, I guess I co-ordinate all three,” Nat concludes.
As General Manager – Planning at Amart Furniture, Nat is responsible for the demand and supply planning, shipping and master data management functions. He is charged with the end to end S&OP/IBP process, with a remit to improve stock turns, optimise in stock position of key products, enable visibility of inventory plans and optimise capacity across the organisation.
Previously working with Woolworths for 14 years in retail operations and merchandise roles, Nat contributed to Project Refresh, which proved to be a fantastic foundation of learning for best practice in retail. He then moved onto several less mature retailers and a stint in retail consulting, where he says he learned what not to do.
He was then invited to start a retail organisation from the ground up.
“Establishing BCF with the Super Retail Group was an amazing experience that took a new business from nothing to a $500 million revenue operation in just under 7 years,” he says.
From there, Nat facilitated large scale Supply Chain transformation for Super Retail Group as it acquired several businesses (Rebel Sport, Amart Sports, Rays Outdoors) as their Programme Manager for Supply Chain and Inventory Management, providing four years of change management and benefit delivery.
When asked about his biggest career achievement to date, Nat highlights three key projects where he feels he has refined his skills and contributed substantial value.
“Being involved in Woolworths’ Project Refresh taught me so much about retail. Being part of bringing BCF to life and delivering a significant program of change to the Super Retail Group’s Supply Chain have been extremely rewarding experiences,” he says.
Nat finds that being a change agent over time has been the most interesting and challenging aspect of his more recent roles in equal measure.
“For me, I think it is easier to lead a team through change. However, influencing and convincing your peers and superiors that change is for the best is often more difficult,” he says.
In terms of inspirational people in his life, Nat says that he has been fortunate enough in his career to have had several great mentors and leaders.
“The ones who most inspired me were the ones who lead me up a staircase that neither party knew exactly where it led, but I followed without question, because I knew their vision was solid,” says Nat.
When it comes to technology affecting change in the industry, Nat sees it as a tool that better equips the retail customer.
“They are more informed, there is less need to actually go to a store to research their purchases; an expectation of store traffic reducing due to this is a given for bricks and mortar retail. The transfer and need for retail to exist as an omni channel offer to the ‘teched-up’ customer has caused major change in the industry in the past 10 years, and continues to as technology evolves,” he explains.