The Eastern Cape retail sector is set to benefit from key global insights when South African expatriate Troy Zunckel returns to the country after more than a decade of international retail experience in Dubai.
Zunckel heads to Port Elizabeth’s R2-billion Baywest Mall in April, taking the reins from outgoing GM Sonja de Necker, who will be taking up a fresh retail challenge in Lagos, Nigeria, at the end of February.
Zunckel has spent the last five years with the Al Futtaim Group in Dubai, occupying various general management roles within their retail division. Most recently, he headed up the Group’s fashion division – which comprises international brands Guess, Esprit, F&F and Ted Baker (Egypt) – in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The divisional portfolio is made up of over 90 stores in nine countries.
He cites working with the world’s second biggest retailer, Tesco, to launch F&F across the Middle East as one of his career highlights to date.
“My team and I took the brand from a signed franchise agreement to fourteen stores across four countries in just two years,” he said.
After starting out as a sales manager for a Stuttafords store in his hometown of Durban, Zunckel quickly proved his ability, rising through the ranks to become regional manager for Africa within five years.
He then moved to Dubai as retail operations manager for Home Centre before joining the Landmark Group as general manager for its Babyshop business in the United Arab Emirates.
“My international experience has given me a global perspective on the retail industry, which will enable me to share some of the best practices the world has to offer with Baywest Mall customers,” said Zunckel.
The 44-year-old said another exciting aspect of his role would be helping to achieve the long-term vision for the Baywest City mixed use development, which would be anchored on the success of the mall.
“The fact that Baywest is so new is exciting, as I will have an opportunity to build on the solid foundations that exist today,” said Zunckel.
He said one of the biggest challenges facing shopping malls worldwide was the unification of bricks-and-mortar stores and online retail.
“Leading shopping malls around the Middle East are on their way to becoming true e-commerce participants, through increasingly sophisticated websites, onsite digital interfaces with consumers, and mobile communication to shoppers within the mall and beyond its boundaries.”
Zunckel said he saw this as a real opportunity and was delighted that Baywest was positioning itself as the most technologically advanced mall in the country.
Shoppers can already download and use the Baywest Mall app, which uses an integrated software platform and specialised beacon technology to locate special offers and sales specifically tailored to their interests as they move through the mall.
“My vision is to deliver a world-class shopping mall that is relevant and fully integrated with the communities and customers that surround it,” he added.
Zunckel, who was born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal and attended Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill, said he was looking forward to rejoining his family who now live in the Eastern Cape.
“Over the years, my family – my mom, dad, brother and sister, and their respective families – have all settled in Jeffreys Bay and Paradise Beach.”
His wife Shannon and sons Max, 8, and Alex, 5, joined them in Jeffreys Bay in early 2014.
Baywest Mall’s marketing manager Samantha Hewitson said her team were delighted to have someone of Zunckel’s calibre on board.
“With his strong retail management experience for some of the world’s leading brands, Troy will be a great addition to the Baywest family,” said Hewitson.
“In the interim, our management team will be joining us to oversee the day-to-day operations for the month of March, so it will be business as usual at Baywest Mall.”