• Juanita Neville-Te Rito

In memory of a great retail leader and my best mate, Tanya Laurence

It has not gone unnoticed that there hasn’t been an X File from RetailX this year. That gave me a lovely feeling when I had people ask "what the go was and when was the next one?" The year didn’t start exactly as planned (what about 2020 has?) and my gorgeous best mate passed away after an epic 2.5-year battle with a rare cancer called Leiomyosarcoma. On top of being one of my best mates, she was also an incredible retail marketer. My grief has been part of why we haven’t done a newsletter this year as I have only the energy and focus to do the day-to-day. But with some extra time on my hands, let me tell you about this incredible lady.

Some facts


Tanya was Group Marketing Manager of Briscoe Group before her diagnosis, a role she held for 8 years leading the strategic, tactical and executional marketing of Briscoes Homewares, Rebel Sport and Living & Giving brands.

Tanya had retail, QSR and FMCG in her blood joining Coca-Cola Amatil from university on the inaugural Graduate Program and holding various roles over her 7-year tenure from Sales Rep, Training Manager, District Sales Manager, Special Projects – Vending Technology through to National Key Account Manager.

She also led Marketing for Burger King during a 6-year stint before contracting as Marketing for Briscoes Group and then Air New Zealand Holidays during a two-year maternity leave period. She finally found her happy place back at Briscoes Group, most likely driven through her love of everything sports, and especially from her passion as a national level squash representative.


In her time with Briscoes Group she became a strong advocate for Cure Kids and worked closely with them to support raising vital funds to help improve, extend and save the lives of kids in New Zealand.


Tanya was known for her laugh, smile that lit up a room and her sense of humour. She would have loved this one in our current Covid times.

I can’t remember the exact day in August 2017 that Tarn’s rang and said "I need to come and see you. Now". It seemed a little odd as it wasn’t even cocktail hour, heck it was mid-morning on Saturday. But after that everything became a whirlwind. She has a lump in her bum/thigh she thought was a knot that wasn’t going away from squash, but the day prior she had been to the doctor and this started the very quick investigation into what type of cancer she had. And it was an aggressive cancer we were to come to discover. It was advanced. It was rare and it wasn’t the outlook anyone wanted.


Without going through all the details of the journey it was rough. After the initial shock, sadness and anger at Tanya’s diagnosis, she continued to defy the medical fraternity and started the fight of her life. A fierce, fierce battle. For someone who could be so laid back, she could fall over and was known to be pretty vague on details or following instructions she certainly stepped it up. All she wanted to do was live. She wanted to continue to be here for Gee (her husband), for the kids, her family and all of us, her mates. She had plenty of more adventures and parties she wanted to attend. She wanted so much to see her gorgeous family grow up and we’d laugh about whether she would get me free VIP tickets in the future when Jake made the Black Caps (trust me - this will most likely happen. Jake being a Black Cap that is). Every single time Tarn’s would come out of whatever stage she was in and beat the doctor’s predictions and not complain one little bit. She rocked her bald head, a wig, new white hair. She was incredible.

2019 Christmas and Summer was an amazing time for Tarn’s, her friends and family and I still can’t fathom how an infection led to a day that none of us wanted to happen, I’d go say far as to say, didn’t expect it would ever happen. What happened next was a blur. Saying goodbye was a blur, feeling my heartbreak was a blur and organising her funeral was a blur. Still is. And it still hurts like hell.

We travelled together a lot of the years, Fiji countless times when the kids were little, local holidays at Kiwi beaches, Bali and Vietnam. She created a tradition that whatever country we were in the kids were given like a million dong or rupiah or whatever, so they thought they were millionaires, where in fact they only had $2.50. They were given an assignment to go and find the “best souvenir” for the money. As always retail was something that would bind the group together in some fun.

There was always a time limit, they had to haggle, and she would find someone to judge the winner – typically some poor minivan driver who spoke little English and had no idea what this crazy woman was asking of him. Her husband Gee, my husband Mark and I would spend most our time trying to keep the kids away from some less than appropriate souvenir’s and answer questions like “what’s this” ……knowing full well that our boys probably knew it was a different version of a dong on a bottle opener but it was the girls trying to buy it because they thought “it looked fun”. But she would be there just laughing and laughing and encouraging the kids more and telling them how awesome their finds were.

“Tanya was the greatest friend and champion anyone could have. With her infectious smile and laugh she made sure everyone she came into contact with understood that life was meant to be enjoyed and that friends and family were the things that mattered most. While she always said she only worked to live, she was an exceptional marketer who was well loved and admired within the retail fraternity and was incredibly good at her craft. She will be incredibly missed.”

Cheeky, witty, fun-loving, sporty, gorgeous. Caring, clever and considerate. Fiercely loyal. Bossy. Deliberately vague. An incredible selfless and positive person. Humble. A total inspiration.

It was a huge honour and a privilege it is to be a part of Tanya’s life. The hole she leaves is massive and it hurts still every, single day. But I am so incredibly glad that she is not here having to live through Covid-19. That would be petrifying for her, let alone her family and friends. We wouldn’t have been able to see her, hug her and hold her hand.

Tanya wasn’t religious. I am a Catholic and we have had many impassioned discussions after a few, which I tended to back off on and she always got the last word. But this time I get the last word on this issue because the one thing with having faith is knowing, there is eternal life. So Tarn’s is hanging in “heaven” whatever that is and probably grumpy because I was actually right.

#TanyaLaurence #retailermarketer #inmemory #bestmate #retailX #makingretailhappen

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