Woolworths to unify David Jones and Country Road Group
The South African group’s previous announcement that the existing David Jones head office in Sydney will relocate to Melbourne and the latest news confirm that the companies are transitioning to a solitary regional corporate structure.
John Dixon, the current head of David Jones, will become CEO of WHL Australasia, encompassing the Country Road Group and David Jones and hold responsibility for the two companies’ Australasian operations.
“Over the past 14 months I have been impressed by both the creative talent and technical expertise in our Australasian businesses,” said Dixon.
The region will be headed by Dixon, who will be at the helm of a team of regional executives covering the core operational functions, plus key roles in across the Country Road Group, David Jones food and clothing and general merchandise. WHL said this arrangement “allows us to benefit from group functions whilst maintaining the independence of our key brands within the Australian group”.
Scott Fyfe, currently CEO of Country Road Group and Ashley Gardner, CFO at WHL Australasia have been appointed to Woolworths’ Australasian regional leadership team, while David Thomas, currently COO of David Jones, assumes the same role for the new WHL Australasia.
As part of the structural shake-up, Gary Williams has been appointed chief customer officer of the new entity, while John Bovill, currently group executive – digital at David Jones has been appointed head of digital. Bovill will now sit on the regional leadership team reporting to Dixon, with an expanded role heading up digital in the business across the region. Under the new structure, that includes David Jones, the Country Road Group, Witchery, Trenery, Mimco and Politix.
Meanwhile, Williams joins after holding key strategic roles at rival Myer and Westfield.
David Collins, currently group executive – merchandise at David Jones has been appointed managing director, David Jones clothing and general merchandise, while Darren Blankfield, currently EA to Dixon,has been appointed head of strategy, for the new venture.
Meanwhile, long serving David Jones and current COO of the Country Road Group, Sacha Laing, is leaving the business with immediate effect.
“This new regional management structure provides a platform for growth and I look forward to bringing the David Jones and Country Road teams closer together in Melbourne as we take the next step on our journey to transform and grow the Australasian businesses,” said Ian Moir, CEO, WHL group executive.
WHL said the new regional structure will have no impact on the combined headcount of the two retail names, with approximately 1,300 employees located at the new Australasian office, which WHL expects to eventually increase to around 1,500 employees.
“But perhaps more valuable will be the opportunity to collaborate more frequently, more informally and with more breadth across the business,” he said.
“Arguably there is a risk that oversharing can create a more homogenous experience across both brands but I think that’s unlikely.
“Each brand has a very different customer value proposition and as long as that remains clearly defined, the business will enjoy the benefits of a more efficient structure.”
Newell also does not expect the new arrangement to create issues with vendors over the existing structure.
“It’s just a change in geography,” he said.
Meanwhile Clair van Veen, independent brand and CX consultant, said the challenge for WHL will be in successfully operating a multi-brand group.
“This will mean clearly defined brand and customer experience strategies that provide single minded principles for how each brand goes to market to remain competitive and distinct,” told IRW.
“On the plus side I believe the consolidation will most likely force each brand to get pointier on their strategy and target customer and it is then up to the team to deliver on those strategies whether it is a blended or single brand team.”
In terms of existing relationships, van Venn said these types of restructures inevitably mean some pain for some suppliers.
“However great suppliers will always be great suppliers and great relationships come from businesses approaching their suppliers as partners and seeking win-win outcomes for long-term gains,” she said.
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