Why is Myer so unlucky?

MyerBourkestreetOn the March 2 in 2015 the ABC wrote: “It has become clear that to thrive in a modern retail environment, Myer must adapt more quickly and be closer to its customers. The board and management team have agreed that the transformation work has reached a pivotal point and it is appropriate for a new CEO to be given the opportunity to own, lead and drive the transformation program.”

That same day, IG markets Evan Lucas was quoted in the Daily Telegraph that it appeared as if the board had forced former Myer CEO Bernie Brookes to resign.

On February 14 this year, Brookes’ successor, Richard Umbers, was “forced out” (afr.com)

Why is Myer so unlucky?

And why is Solomon Lew so correct?

As we know he is advocating a clean sweep. The board and the chairman must go and the sooner the better. Put Mark McInnes at the helm and there will be an immediate turnaround – I reckon underwritten by Solomon Lew.

I have vacillated on whether it is important (essential) to have retailers on the board of retail companies and a retailer at the helm. Of course the current Myer board is thin on retailers and Umbers was light on retail experience.

Apparently the thinking was that the future of retail lies in omnichannel and therefore who better to head up a retail organisation than a tech head. Certainly having an “experienced” retailer prior to Umbers hadn’t worked.

Yes – physical stores are losing ground. Just read these columns in recent months to see how many retailers are in trouble. And internet sales are climbing. But this is a drop in the ocean. An exponential growth of very little is very little. Yet we hear about omnichannel incessantly like a drowning frog clinging to a lily leaf.

Why omnichannel will never work is patently clear. There is no measurable benefit and nobody appears to have asked the customer whether they want it. In the absence of a full blown survey (which would be a huge challenge because nobody seems to agree on a definition for omnichannel), my informal findings are that there is a consumer backlash to handing over their email addresses and mobile phone numbers because they are being inundated with junk.

So let’s park the technology mumbo jumbo for a while and in the case of Myer, have a competent retailer take over the reins.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702



  1. doug maxwell posted on March 13, 2018

    Make the board totally retail and stopmucking around

  2. PD posted on March 13, 2018

    Please make the pain stop! Everyone knows that the business needs to be rescued, that they have lost customer focus ( just actually try and pay for something in a Myer store), the range has been handed over to concessions and store-in-store. Shareholders must be livid. I would be backing Lew and McGuiness all the way.

  3. Matt Hampshire posted on March 13, 2018

    "There is no measurable benefit and nobody appears to have asked the customer whether they want it" Stuart, I know you are stirring the pot here, but this statement is clearly laughable.

    • Stuart Bennie posted on March 13, 2018

      Thanks for your comment Matt ! Help me out here. How do you measure the benefit? Do you know who has done research on what customers want?

  4. William Robson posted on March 13, 2018

    Mr Lew is not the genius all are making out. Many have forgotten his role in World for Kids and if you look are Premier's stable of retailers only two are performing. Comparable store figure see Just Jeans, Portmans and Dotti at best static but many stores are in negative territory. Store closures have been too slow. Doubt even he does not have the answers. Is it we have too many departments stores and DDSs for the size and the geographic location of our population.

    • Amy Roche posted on March 14, 2018

      Agree with William, most of Lew's stores are not performing well or exceeding at customer experience. I don't think ONE man/woman is the answer either, it takes a team of remarkable retailers to get it right, I'm hoping they tap into some new and old talent as I think most of Australia is willing them to succeed - I know I am ;-)

  5. Stuart Bennie posted on March 13, 2018

    Point taken William!

  6. Michael Major posted on March 14, 2018

    Thank you, Stuart, for pointing out the obvious. Technology, such as omnichannel, is a great facilitator, but they're not exclusively the answer. And yes, department stores seem to have become mini shopping centres with the number of concessions they have. So, what's the real answer, what's the real problem to be solved here? It must lie in designing the overall shopping experience - an experience that boutique/specialist retailers cannot match. The answer doesn't lie solely in the store environment, it's not just about customer service either, nor is it exclusively about the product range and pricing. It's all of this and more. It's about a distinctive shopping experience and in this case a unique Myer experience that cannot be matched by others. In the case of department stores, where's the magic, where's the mystery and delight gone they use to own? The sense of discovery, the sense of wonderment as one arrived and move around the store seems to have been lost with the advent of technology seemingly becoming the driver to salvation. Shoppers must be emotionally engaged with a sense of excitement they're going to shop at a department store. Today shopping seems more of a functional activity rather than an emotionally engaging one as does a lot shopping does nowadays. The answer lies is a clear strategic customer centric commitment at Board level to creating a shopping experience that truly and distinctively engages - a shopping experience that cannot be matched by others.

  7. Norrelle Goldring posted on March 14, 2018

    Agree with Michael. The role of the department store (irrespective of the channel/medium through which sold, physical or digital) needs to be reclarified in an age of online marketplaces.Vis what's happened to Sears, JC Penney, Macys in the USA. And the role of the physical store is increasingly experiential (where online is transactional - range/price/convenience). Myer has taken some good steps in this experiential direction, winning POPAI Marketing at Retail awards in 2017 for its Wonderland execution, and in previous years Silver for its community based campaigns. But it needs to determine what its overall experiential offering will be - and not just the hygiene factors (that it currently doesn't have right anyway) of customer service and transaction points. I'm not convinced that many 'traditional' Australian retailers necessarily think beyond the usual range/quality/price/service drivers ... which are now cost of entry, not differentiators.

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