Warehouse readies for survival of fittest

the_warehouse_storeOnly the fittest and most savvy retailers will survive the digital era and the Warehouse Group is accelerating its transformation plan, chair Joan Withers and chief executive Nick Grayston say.

Warehouse’s share price has fallen around 30 per cent since the annual meeting a year ago, a “serious concern”, Withers said in notes for the annual general meeting in Auckland on Friday.

The stock last traded at $2.04 from about $3 at the prior AGM.

“Globally, retailers are besieged and only those who are the fittest and who have made the changes needed to compete for today’s customers are successful,” she said.

Against a backdrop where over $2 billion was wiped off the value of ASX listed retailers in the month following the announcement of Amazon’s arrival in Australia, both the board and management team recognised business as usual or incremental change is not an option, she said.

Under the leadership of Grayston, who took over from Mark Powell in December 2015, Warehouse has embarked on a three-year strategy to lift profitability by removing the complexity and cost of an inefficient operating model and reshaping the company’s physical footprint to support the digital business.

In a presentation for shareholders, Grayston said the “acceleration of our transformation plan is now an imperative to respond to emerging trends”.

According to the chief executive, power has shifted to consumers and “our retail business model must evolve to utilise new technologies and platforms which connect consumers across global marketplaces to create an experience that differentiates us from our competition”.

The transformation process includes a leveraged store footprint incorporated with e-commerce, consistent and competitive pricing, good stock availability, automated check-outs, and a variety of delivery options including a two-hour option.

In a recent presentation to investors, the company highlighted New Zealand’s e-commerce market was growing at 14 per cent year-on-year but that local competition was heating up with the Kmart e-commerce launch as well as global players.

It is also currently experimenting with different AI packages for strongest customer experience, changing up delivery through things like an express delivery trial and testing a chatbot at Noel Leeming.

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