Woolies hires Tesco exec to lead food unit

WoolworthsWoolworths has tapped long-standing Tesco executive Claire Peters to lead its supermarkets in the fight for customers with Coles and Aldi.

Peters has more than 20 years experience in retail, most recently as chief operating officer of UK supermarket giant Tesco’s operations in Thailand.

Woolworths has spent $1 billion cutting supermarket prices in the face of competition from Coles and German budget retailer Aldi opening more stores across Australia.

The spending spree has started to pay off but it’s still early days.

In October, Woolworths reported a rise in underlying food sales for the first time in almost two years.

Comparable food sales, which excludes store openings and closures, rose 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2016/17, ahead of analysts’ expectations of a 0.4 per cent rise.

Coles booked a 1.7 per cent rise in comparable food sales in the first quarter.

Peters will report to Woolworths group chief executive Brad Banducci, who will continue to play an “active leadership role” in the supermarkets, digital, metro and New Zealand supermarkets businesses, the company said in a statement on Monday.

“After an extensive search for the right candidate, we are delighted to welcome someone of Claire’s calibre to our team,” Banducci said. “Claire has a proven track record in working with teams to  deliver against key strategic objectives and she is the right person to work with our team to continue  the good progress we have already made.”

“Successful retailers put their customers first and I look forward to continuing to drive Woolworths’ existing customer-led strategy,” said Peters’, who will take-over on July 1.

Woolworths also appointed Marcin Firek as a new company secretary yesterday, effective immediately.  Richard Dammery will continue his role as Chief legal officer and company secretary.

As well as operating 3,000 supermarket stores, Woolworths’ portfolio includes discount department store chain Big W, apparel and homeware catalogue business EziBuy, liquor stores chains BWS and Dan Murphy’s, and New Zealand grocery chain Countdown.

Woolworths recently agreed to sell its petrol stations to BP for $1.8 billion, and is in the process of trying to turnaround Big W after its boss, Sally Macdonald, resigned last year.

Woolworths booked about $460 million in asset writedowns related to Big W and Ezibuy in August, when the group reported a $1.23 billion annual loss.

At 1434 AEDT, Woolworths shares were up 7.5 cents, or 0.31 per cent, to $24.46 in a higher Australian share market.

With AAP

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