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Retail is an exclusive club

meeting, business, boardroom, companyFrom the outside it is easy to comment on boards and in this column I have certainly been critical of both the old David Jones and the current Myer Boards. These saw the demise of Paul Zahra and Bernie Brookes.

Is the non-performance of these boards partly due to their composition?

Many folk who have not grown up in retail, resent the fact that they are not called retailers no matter how hard they try. They are on the outside and will never qualify for being on the inside. After all, retail is an exclusive club.

Let’s take an objective look at the Myer board.

Paul McClintock – Chairman
Paul is a distinguished senior executive who would bring a wealth of knowledge to any organisation. But has he a retail hair on his head?

Rupert Myer – Deputy Chairman
Rupert holds a Master of Arts from the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He became a Member of the Order of Australia in January 2005 for service to the arts, for support of museums, galleries, and the community through a range of philanthropic and service organisations. Again clearly a man of intellect but count the real cut and thrust retail hairs.

Richard Umbers – CEO and MD
Undoubtedly sound retail experience although some may be circumspect about his previous role in IT and logistics. Let’s give him a go. I have a good feeling about Richard.

Anne Brennan
Hmm… Previously a partner in KPMG, Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young which in itself rings alarm bells. Clearly a highly competent financial person, and you need them, but as for retail?

Chris Froggatt
Chris has broad experience – a danger sign – with a consumer goods tilt. Worryingly she has a strong HR bent.

Rob Thorn
Your quintessential retailer. How many retailers would give an arm and a leg to have more Robs around?

Ian Cornell
A retailer, albeit on the supermarket side, with sound HR experience. Do we need more HR experience? Good shopping centre background.

Putting the whole lot into the blender, what emerges?

To put it kindly, thin on retail experience. With a couple of exceptions, few board members qualify for membership of the Retail Elite.

Could this be a contributor to Net Profit After Tax being 23.1 per cent down for the first half?

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.

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