Former Myer CEO Bernie Brookes came out earlier this week with scathing commentary on Australia’s retail sector, saying most retailers were doing a poor job at exciting and enticing customers into their stores.

“You still walk into department stores and discount department stores … [in Australia] and they’re as boring as batsh*t, they really are,” he told attendees at a retail conference seminar in Melbourne.

Brookes, who was at the helm of Myer for nearly a decade before he stepped down in 2015, said too many retailers seemed to be content with wishy-washy offerings. “At the moment they’re all fighting in the same space, but none of them have a point of difference,” he told SmartCompany.

Brookes is certainly not alone in his assessment that Australian retailers can be a little on the staid side. Last year, an analyst for investment bank Citi went as far as to call the fashion lines he was seeing in stores dull.

“In our view, winter sales are weak because fashion trends are hardly different to last year and lack enticing colours. It’s all about black, khaki, pale pink and leopard print (yet again),” the fashionista analyst said.

And it’s to a very large degree true. The Australian shopping experience, especially when it comes to department stores and even retail fashion, is not terribly exciting. It definitely lacks the wow factor people want when they go shopping.

Brookes suggested retailers need to up the ante on experiential shopping, citing overseas retailers like Macy’s and Selfridges as examples to follow.

Another thing Australian retailers are still struggling with, and which Brookes himself never really succeeded at in his time at Myer, is integrating digital and bricks-and-mortar to create a seamless and modern shopping experience for customers.

This is still something with which retailers the world over, not just Australian ones, are coming to grips. Traditional retailers, especially department stores, have been under massive pressure to protect their patch and profits as online retailers have muscled in on margins. In many cases, and perhaps understandably, that has led to conservative retail strategies that have sought to emphasis discount retailing instead of premium brand strategies.

Traditional retailers were always going to struggle to outrun the likes of Amazon, or even British online fashion retailer Asos, on price. The one thing they have in their arsenal is the in-store experience, or ‘experiential’ retail as Brookes calls it. The trick for smart retailers has been to work out how they leverage their bricks-and-mortar with clever digital options. Australian retailers are not really there yet.

US department store Nordstrom has been cited as one department store that is working with some success towards a better integration of digital and physical elements in its strategy, creating what some in the retail industry call an omnichannel strategy.

The reality is that shoppers are now totally at ease with using their smartphones to price shop on the spot and research items as they browse in-store. They want to be able to order online and pick up at their convenience. They want some colour and fun when they walk into a store too.

If Australian retailers don’t want to be “boring as batsh*t”, they will have to work on integrating digital and physical, as well as bringing some life back into their stores.