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David Jones boss to go in structural shake-up

Dixon (left) with Neil Perry (right).
Dixon (left) with Neil Perry (right).

John Dixon, the retail executive charged with overseeing David Jones (DJs) and Country Road Group for South-African based Woolworths Holdings, has resigned from his position.

In a statement to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Woolworths Holdings said that it had discontinued Dixon’s role leading its operations in Australia, a job it handed to the former Marks & Spencer executive only last year.

DJs chief executive David Thomas and Country Road Group boss Scott Fyfe will now report directly to Woolworths Holdings Group chief executive Ian Moir in an organisational restructure of the company’s Australian operations.

Dixon’s departure comes just three months after DJs’ rival Myer announced the departure of chief Richard Umbers, as both department stores contend with unprecedented pressure on their retail operations.

Woolworths Holdings said the decision to overhaul the organisational structure of its Australian business came after a strategic review aimed at cutting costs and that the move would simplify its leadership structure.

Dixon’s departure is effective 21 May, he has also resigned as an executive director of Woolworths Holdings.

Dixon oversaw a period of difficulty for DJs, which earlier this year booked a $713 million write down amid ongoing difficulty in turning around the business.

DJS operating profit fell 37.7 per cent to $66 million in the six months ended 31 December, while comparable sales were down 3.3 per cent.

Country Road Group, which includes the Country Road, Mimco, Trenery, Witchery and Politix brands, has been a stronger performer with operating profits up 15.7 per cent for the same-half to $59 million on a 5.2 per cent increase in top line sales.

Dixon had been working with management on an urgent turnaround for the up-market department store that included opening a raft of smaller format stores as well as launching a $100 million food hall strategy designed to diversify the department store’s offer.

While the company’s strategy is not expected to change, the departure is a dramatic turnaround from the South African owner, which only a year ago was promoting Dixon’s oversight of its Australian businesses as an important part of its turnaround efforts.

Woolworths Holdings thanked Dixon for his service on Tuesday in a statement advising its shareholders of the changes.

“We would like to thank John for his stewardship of the business over the last two and a half years and wish him every success for the future,” it said.

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