Happy New Year! On the world stage, we had Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and in the sporting scene both the Cronulla Sharks and the Western Bulldogs were number one for the first time in 50 years. Australian retail saw the demise of Dick Smith (3500 staff), Masters (7700), Pumpkin Patch (1000), Seduce (100) and Payless Shoes (870). The big three fashion internationals (Uniqlo, H & M, and Zara) had $600m combined Aussie sales and with further stores rolling out, unfortunately I think it’ll be a shock if we DON’T see more retailers close their doors in 2017. The relocation of David Jones head office to Melbourne will create huge headaches for some but opportunities for others. Apparently only 20 per cent of the 500 Sydney staff will relocate, so where (or from whom) will they find 400 experienced head office staff in Melbourne? Based on supply and demand what will be the domino impact on salaries in both Sydney and Melbourne? On a positive, perhaps the Sydney arrival of Amazon might soak up some of these excess staff.
“Interesting times” create people change, as some stakeholders think it’s easier to change the coach than to change the team, while members of the team look to “change horses” and join a company that is moving forward. One thing’s for sure, changes at the top lead to further changes cascading down the ranks. So, to predict which companies will be making change in 2017, let’s review 2016.
John Dickson (UK), and CFO Ashley Gardner (ex Just Group) arrived at David Jones while departed CEO Iain Nairn is now driving the international expansion of Kikki -K and has appointed Sue Bazely (ex Fusion) as head of retail operations at the stationery retailer. Lovisa founder, Shane Fallscheer, is also focusing on global growth and named Steve Doyle (ex Boating Camping Fishing) as CEO and Armando Pedruco as global GM stores.
Changes at Myer were minimal, although of significance was the addition of Grant Parker (ex Country Road Group) as GM global sourcing, while at subsidiary Sass and Bide, CEO Julie Otter said good-bye, as did Therese Rawsthorne (creative director), and Chris McFadden (CFO) allowing Julie Malandin (ex Sheridan) to take up the role of COO.
Brad Banducci became Woolworths Ltd CEO, making several senior changes with possibly the biggest to date Claire Peters (ex Tesco) to run Supermarkets. Big W CEO Alistair McGeorge returned to the UK and was replaced by Sally McDonald (ex Oroton) – who after just 10 months has also left.
At Wesfarmers, chief John Gillam steps down, PJ Davies leads the charge in the UK and Michael Schneider moves up to MD-Aust and NZ. Target waved goodbye to Stuart Machin – which triggered several other senior management changes, while Allan Molloy left to join The Reject Shop as GM store operations. Guy Russo hopes to duplicate his Kmart success at Target and moving Andre Reich across as COO is certainly a good start.
Cameron Trainor stepped up to CEO of JB Hi-Fi (who take over The Good Guys), while Retail Cube Group acquired Accent Group, promoting Daniel Agostinelli to co-CEO and Ant Hudson (ex Luxottica) to CEO of The Athletes Foot.
At Steinhoff, Rod Orrock (ex Dick Smith and Domayne) is now CEO of Best and Less, while Rosanna Iaconno as COO of Freedom Furniture, will provide support to MD Tim Schaafsma after the acquisition of Fantastic Furniture Group – who incidentally earlier in the year saw both Group CEO Stephen Heath and CFO George Saoud walk out.
Country Road Group had significant change with Group CEO Matt Keogh, creative head Sophie Holt, Mimco MD Cathryn Wills and GM Product Matt Blashki (joined PAS group) all moving on. Under the guidance of Scott Evans, Noni-B took over Pretty Girl Fashion Group (Rockmans, W Lane, BeMe and Table 8). Paul Cherny (ex Camilla) is now CEO at Bendon – who are looking to merge with US sleepwear company Naked. At the Apparel Group, both CEO Adrian Jones and Gina Constantine (GM Sportscraft) have gone with the latter going to Cue as retail director, while Jeanswest have appointed Peter Venter (ex Spotlight Group) as COO and Forever New appointed Sonia Bettega (ex General Pants) to the newly created role of GM global ops.
With the departure of retail relations head Jack Hanrahan, 2016 may be the end of 23 years of Westfield Global Retail Study tours – I’ve learnt so much from the ones I’ve attended. Fortunately, Jack has teamed up with a new sponsor and will run a 10-day “same style tour” in May 2017, featuring 30 first class speakers and store visits in Seattle, New York and London.
Finally, I think it’s worth noting that one retail veteran made change when he smashed an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. Well-known retail director and chairman Rod Walker (background includes Godfreys, Carpet Court, Witchery, Mimco, BnT, Steinhoff, Rebel Sport and PAS Group) raised a quarter of a million dollars for Fusion – a not-for-profit Christian Youth and Community organisation that helps families across Australia. At 59 years of age Rod entered the ring against 23 different opponents to set a record for the “most consecutive boxing rounds” by competing for 127 three minute rounds which lasted over 8 hours. Watching Rod ringside I can tell you he wasn’t going slow – this was fair dinkum stuff and the hits were hard.
One thing that won’t change in 2017 is the importance of your people. There is no doubt that in today’s digitally connected world where similar product is available everywhere at any time the most competitive advantage you can have are the calibre of your staff. Be it your buying or creative design team, your VM or merch planning, your front line troops or your accounting and HR people…more than ever they all need to be at the top of their game – as you’re only as strong as your weakest link! After all, in retail and fashion it’s the difference that creates the difference. Best to you all as we kick off 2017.