David Jones chair defends Zahra

Mason hits back at criticism of Zahra's resignation, says group is focused on Christmas trade, warns of challenging outlook.

David Jones (DJS) chairman Peter Mason has hit back at criticism of chief executive officer Paul Zahra's decision to resign.

Addressing shareholders at the company's annual general meeting, Mr Mason said Mr Zahra has the board's unqualified support and confidence in leading the company until his successor's appointment.

"Comments that the timing of the announcement of his intention to resign will impact his and your company's focus on the important Christmas and January sales period underestimate Paul and his team," Mr Mason said.

"Comments that the Board and Paul are not working together collaboratively towards your company‟s success are untrue."

Mr Mason warned the outlook over the next 12 months remains uncertain and retail conditions are expected to remain challenging.

He said the business is well placed to capitalise on any strengthening in consumer sentiment as it occurs.

Mr Zahra said he was continuing to work collaboratively with the board and with my management team while his successor was identified, adding he would remain in his role for as long as necessary.

"I would like to confirm that I continue to be 100% committed to the company's business," Mr Zahra said.

"As mentioned by the chairman, the 2013 financial year remained a challenging year for retailers in terms of subdued consumer sentiment and a number of macro-economic factors."

Mr Zahra said the group has spent the last 18 months transforming its business from a bricks and mortar retailer into an omni-channel retailer.

David Jones has established an innovation team to develop the retail offer and the way the company interacts with customers, and created a new senior management role titled executive of customer innovation and growth, Mr Zahra said.

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