Face Time with Clare Hart-Davies from Retailquip

Becoming Managing Director of the family business, Retailquip, at just 27-years-old, Clare Hart-Davies is determined to build on her Dad’s legacy. This is her story…

I was born in Tamworth, NSW, as the youngest of four girls – just one minute younger than my twin sister, who never fails to remind me. We also had two female dogs, a female cat, a couple of female cows, and Dad even swore the goldfish was a girl.

Everyone said “poor you” to Dad when they learnt he lived his life surrounded by so many women, but he always said he was the luckiest man alive! We all grew up looking up to our Dad.

I’ve always been a natural leader. I used to force my sisters to star in home videos, that I of course directed, and I became school captain of both my primary and high schools. At school, I was a very academic, well-behaved, and sociable child. I played the flute and piano, I sang (poorly), and played several sports – netball, tennis, and touch football.

My first job was working at Target and from there I did my fair share of retail and hospitality jobs as I grew up. I’m a fantastic check-out chick, a dedicated fitting room attendant, a highly efficient shelf stacker, and an average (at best) barista. 

I was lucky to travel with my parents when I was young, and because my Mum is from the UK, I have dual citizenship, which allowed me to study and work abroad. I took advantage of that when I was completing my sustainability degree, by studying part of it in Sweden. I have also volunteered as an au pair and farm worker in France. I have a goal to travel to as many countries as I am years old – I’m up to 28 now, so it’s so far, so good.

Straight out of university I worked for a Canadian engineering consulting company, Hatch. This really kick-started my career, as I was able to learn a lot quickly and took on a lot of responsibility and autonomy from the onset.

Clare and her Dad, Tom Hart-Davies.

I have since worked in several global engineering and environment firms in the mining, energy, and infrastructure development sectors, alongside multi-disciplinary teams on sites across Australia and abroad to develop integrated environmental and sustainability solutions.

When my father received a shock diagnosis of a terminal illness, our family were forced to consider all options for the future of Retailquip, the business my parents, Tom and Jacky Hart-Davies, started in the home garage 22 years ago.

It quickly became evident that what the company really needed was a reinstatement of someone who would carry forth the same values and supportive family environment that our employees and customers had become accustomed to.

It was then that I decided to make the move from my previous career in consulting to the family business. It was not three months later that my father tragically passed away. Talk about a steep learning curve.

Becoming Managing Director of a national company at 27 years of age was certainly a big change and challenge for me, and every day I’m attempting to fill the very big shoes of my Dad.

Dad bounced out of bed every morning and lived his life for those around him. He loved his job, he was passionate for making change, ran a business based on family values of empathy, honesty, and compassion; and his employees and clients were his friends. It was through my Dad’s determination, dedication, insight and (to be frank) stubbornness, that Retailquip is where it is today.

In five years’ time I hope that Retailquip is continuing to change the way that Australian’s handle their goods. I hope we reach the stage where there isn’t a product you can buy in Australia that hasn’t travelled on a roll cage at some point in its distribution network. I hope that Australian corporations, retailers, warehouses, postal networks, and distributors are finally realising how quickly we can distribute anything when it is on wheels.

Having a background in sustainability, my advice for retailers would be to slow down, step back, and seriously consider if they’re doing everything they can to be socially and environmentally conscious.

Supporting small Australian family-owned businesses like ours keeps our economy turning, and if Covid has taught us anything, it was the importance of having the ability to access goods faster and simpler.

We are on a mission to improve supply chain efficiency, and with the cost-of-living crisis crippling Australians, there has never been a better time for retailers to consider where they can save time in their supply chain (which in turn saves money which should mean savings for the customer). We need support from all stakeholders to advocate for change so that the benefits of these efficiencies can trickle down to the consumer.

Our grocery and retail environment would be much more efficient if suppliers and retailers worked together. Having recently travelled to Sweden to learn more about their distribution networks, it is clear to me in the short time I have spent in this industry that Aussies have a fair way to go in streamlining our supply chain systems. As Dad would say, “the more times someone touches that box of Cornflakes, Clare, the more expensive it becomes”.

I have managed to navigate the last 12 months with the support of my family and friends, especially Mum and my wonderful husband, Jarrod, who also works in the business with me. Outside of work I can be found gardening, camping, walking the dog, or baking up a storm. Although my family is now spread across the country, we are still very close and catch up regularly.

My short and diverse career has given me many highlights but learning that Dad’s name is synonymous with materials handling in Australia has been humbling for me and made me very proud. As I learn the ropes and aim to continue his hard work, I have been so grateful to have the support of our long-term dedicated employees, our customers, and suppliers, and the whole industry.

I think whatever is around the corner for me, nothing will compare to working alongside my Dad and role model and keeping his legacy alive.

This article originally appeared in the October/November issue of C&I Retailing Magazine.

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