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How Daniel Agostinelli Took Accent Group from Humble to Hypersonic
Accent Group is undoubtedly a leader in the footwear game. With more than 19 brands under its belt, it has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1988. We sat down with Daniel Agostinelli, CEO of Accent Group, to find out a bit more about his journey, catching the ‘retail bug’ and the biggest trends he’s predicting.
Daniel Agostinelli, CEO of Accent Group, started with humble beginnings. He tells Power Retail that he ‘stumbled’ into the retail scene, starting out his expansive career when he was 16 years old. “I was simply looking for a part-time job for pocket money, I got the job and then got the retail bug,” he says. But it was clear that leadership was in his blood, making his way up the ladder quickly. “I liked music, so it was fun at the same time. I then was promoted to be a full-time team member and then Second-in-Charge, then Manager, and suddenly I was an Area Manager.”
Before entering the role of CEO of Accent Group, Agostinelli led the landscape in a different category. In 1980, he and his business partner, Brett Blundy, established Sanity Music. Buying out two rundown record stores – Disco Stick – the pair established a wide network of retail stores over the next decade. It was in 1997 when Sanity went public, but by the time music downloading software was available, Daniel was ready for the next step forward. “I really enjoyed Sanity and we grew this business to being the largest retailer of music,” he tells us. “We then listed on the stock exchange and I worked my escrow period – music suddenly was being downloaded and I looked for my next journey.”
Seeking out inspiration, Agostinelli travelled to London to find the next big thing. There, he discovered that all of the biggest celebrities and A-Listers were wearing sneakers as a fashion staple. Gone were the days of standard brown shoes, regular boots and basic footwear – now it was all about the sneaker. “Indeed the ‘rockstars’ of the music industry were wearing them too, and I felt that sneakers would commercialise,” he tells us. “I rushed back to Australia and purchased a small broken sneaker business named ‘Ghetto’. This business grew fast – we grew it to 42 stores and sold it.” Accent Group was initially a supplier for Ghetto, but it wasn’t long before he was asked to join the Group, which were – at the time – primarily a wholesale business ‘with the idea to add retail’. Then something amazing happened: “Platypus was born!” he tells us.
Paired with his love for retail, his current role makes him a perfect fit. “I enjoy the industry,” he shares. “It is fun and full of youth; I am lucky that in view I have the best team in the industry who are all very much ‘CAN DO’ driven. This creates a fast pace and a culture that I enjoy.”
Accent Group isn’t shy of accomplishments – it currently has more than 20 online platforms, consisting of over 500 stores and 19 brands. Looking at where he is now, did he expect to be in this position when he was 25? “Certainly not. I had aspirations and hunger to have a big business but did not expect it to be this big,” he tells Power Retail. “My dream was to one day have a $1 billion sales business; we are above that now.”
As CEO, Agostinelli is required to be across almost every aspect of each business, making his daily routine chock-a-block. He tells us that he begins his day by waking early and checking his emails. “I do my best to respond to all emails fast! This allows my team to get the answers they require to get on with their day.” From there, he reviews the sales performance based on the day prior and works out his calendar according to where the opportunities may be, and where he can add the best value.
Of course, earning the role of CEO is no easy feat – it requires years of experience, creativity, innovation and a touch of inspiration. So, what are some ways that Agonstinelli keeps himself inspired on a daily basis? “I do my best to stay in the loop with whatever is new and a growth opportunity,” he says. “I try to ensure that whatever the new trend in retail or digital is moving the dial that we at Accent are ready to innovate our business into that trend.”
Are there any trends that he is setting his sights on currently? You bet there are. “Currently ‘virtual sales’ seems to be growing, so we have adapted into this space with a great team to ensure that when this area grows, we are ready to capture whatever market share is available to us,” he explains.
“My dream was to one day have a $1 billion sales business; we are above that now.” – Daniel Agostinelli
Just like all good leaders, the journey to success isn’t smooth sailing. Throughout his journey, he’s made some mistakes in his career – but these have helped him along the way. “I made many mistakes,” he says. “The biggest was not being focused enough on inventory, and the pain that causes when you do not own up to mistakes. This caused us many issues and reduced profits because of that mistake.” But he doesn’t see these mistakes or challenges as a reversal or setback to success. In fact, he views them as quite the opposite. Although, if mistakes have been made, it’s important to have a team to support you and catch you if you start to slip. “I feel any prosperous leader faces these challenges from time to time – failure sometimes is good, providing you learn from those mistakes,” he tells us. “I have a pretty good Board of external Directors to lean on – it’s lonely at the top sometimes – but thankfully, the good days outweighs the bad days.”
It’s not all work and no play for Agostinelli. When he’s not making executive decisions and leading the footwear category in Australia and New Zealand, you can find him catching up with friends, trying out new tasty dishes at restaurants, and spending quality time with his family by the beach.
Ultimately, it’s about the people he surrounds himself with that keeps him inspired and changing the face of the category. “I have been fortunate in my journey to date, and I feel a major reason for that is because I have learned to keep it simple,” he explains. “I focus on ensuring our customers are serviced as best as we can at all times. I surround myself with the best team possible and I do my best to ensure that our culture is always at the forefront of what we do every day.”