With a diverse background that includes managing pharmacies in London, owning multiple stores, and heading major brand collaborations, Anthony Pecora’s career has been defined by constant growth and a relentless pursuit of new challenges. Retail Beauty delves into the inspiring story of this seasoned professional, now the General Manager at Ultra Beauty, to find out the secrets to his career success.

Can you tell us about your journey and how you became a General Manager at Ultra Beauty?

After completing my pharmacy studies in Melbourne and gaining five years of valuable experience in the field, I felt a strong urge to explore the world. This led me to spend two years managing a chain of pharmacies in central London. Upon my return to Melbourne, I decided to venture into entrepreneurship and purchased the first of several stores.

Feeling the need for a new challenge, I eventually sold my stores and transitioned outside of the health industry into the broader retail sector. This exciting move landed me the role of International Business Development Manager for Salt&Pepper homewares. In this position, I had the responsibility of overseeing the global expansion of the brand, focusing particularly on North America, South America, and Asia.

Continuing my career journey, I then joined Target as General Manager of Design and Innovation. This role involved leading collaborations with prestigious brands such as Missoni, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dion Lee, Danni Minogue, and others, which significantly contributed to Target’s success.

Driven by my passion for the beauty industry, I took on the role of heading the Beauty Brand Strategy at Myer. Following this, I embraced an incredible opportunity and spent three years in Florence, Italy, as the General Manager of the prestigious Galleria Michelangelo Department Store.

When the Covid pandemic struck, I returned to Australia with the intention of a short visit. However, fate had other plans as I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to work as the General Manager at Ultra Beauty. This move was particularly special because of my longstanding relationship with Mario Verrocchi (Owner, My Chemist/Chemist Warehouse Group), and we saw it as the perfect time to collaborate and make a significant impact in the industry.

What drew you to the pharmacy/beauty industry specifically?

Pharmacy plays a crucial role in wellness in most people’s lives, and I’ve always been attracted to the altruistic nature of the industry. The bright lights and excitement of the beauty industry with its innovation and ability to inspire and contribute to improved self-esteem and discovery, is a space that feels transformative and crucial in the new world we live in. Focusing on the positive power of wellbeing and creating joy, is really an important part of every career decision I’ve made so far. I feel strongly that it shouldn’t just be the luxury sector that leads and innovates. I believe that everyone should be able to opt in to experiential retail and to have access to great products, designs and outcomes along with uplifting inspiration too. Democratising premium retail has become part of my DNA and it’s where I derive a lot of professional satisfaction.

What specific skills and qualifications do you believe have contributed to your career success?

Problem solving, resilience, clarity of vision, a fundamental focus on the end-consumer, a constant willingness to adapt and flex with the customer’s needs and desires, a constant focus on trends and current buying psychology, a desire to bring elevated experiences and products to a wider demographic.

How do you stay up-to-date with retail innovation and trends in the beauty industry?

Never shutting off! Social media, local and international store experiences, listening, watching and discussing the macro and micro trends, the fads and the fundamental shifts with my colleagues and contacts. After years of experience, it becomes very natural to read where our wider retail industry is going.

What are the key challenges and opportunities in the beauty industry today?

Key challenges are sustainability, cutting through the enormous noise, deciphering fads, micro and macro trends; working with a more educated, cynical and informed public. The opportunities available are around authenticity, innovation, building engagement, connecting on an emotional level with the customer, not just in a transactional way and building trust with the customer.

How do you ensure brand consistency across various touchpoints, including packaging, advertising, and retail spaces?

There are no short cuts. It’s in every micro detail. Every single decision needs to be put through the lens of relevancy to the customer and how it connects back to the overall vision. Every social media post, every piece of packaging, every word that is used, every in-store material and unit design, every product for sale. Everything.

How do you plan to achieve the goal of opening 50 stores and generating AUD$130 million in sales by 2025?

By scaling. We’ve built the platform. Now it’s just about bringing the experience to more locations. We will continue to bring the correct edit of brands and innovations to all Australians and New Zealanders. We are also re-platforming our website and are awaiting very exciting developments online for 2024.

How do you approach the rollout of new stores?

The roll out is defined by data, experience, availability of sites and a dose of gut-feeling. Locations are selected on their hunger for premium beauty and where we feel our beauty edit will resonate. We tailor our offerings to the local area. We have a team that are committed to bringing the Ultra Beauty experience to everyone, regardless of where they live. We have invested heavily over the last 3 years to ensure our model is built to be consistent and scaleable. Every decision was based on scaleability and reproducibility.

As a leader, how do you oversee and support your team members across various functions, including store operations, buying, sales driving, and education/training?

Sharing the vision, reassuring them of the correct and clear path, going back to basics frequently and sharing in the small and the big wins. Ensuring that every thing that they do for UB is driving their personal growth and individual journey.

What do you believe are the essential skills and qualities required for success in the retail and beauty industry?

Resilience, learning and growing always, never standing still, personal passion and drive, customer-first mentality, being 12 months ahead of your customer so you have time to plan for when they will want, at the right time.

This article was first published in the Spring issue of Retail Beauty.

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