DJs boss takes surer steps into online future

MOVING into the top seat at a major retailer like David Jones was never going to be easy, but Paul Zahra arguably faced a few more challenges than usual when he was thrust into the hot seat less than two years ago.

MOVING into the top seat at a major retailer like David Jones was never going to be easy, but Paul Zahra arguably faced a few more challenges than usual when he was thrust into the hot seat less than two years ago.

While the scandal over the abrupt resignation of his predecessor, Mark McInnes, played out in a storm of publicity Mr Zahra was unknowingly heading into the toughest retail environment in decades with a business that he claims was lacking on several fronts: most crucially with regards to an online strategy.

This view of the business' shortcomings was shared with the market when the profit downgrades started, and it created a huge feud last year with Mr McInnes over his legacy at the department store.

"While I was there, from 2003 to 2010, the company delivered seven years of profit and dividend growth and we lived through two downturns and one of those downturns was an all-out crisis. Even in 2008 and 2009 the company still delivered profit and dividend growth and had no aged inventory," Mr McInnes said.

Mr Zahra's stocks reached their nadir on Tuesday with speculation swirling that his tenure would not survive the board meeting that day, which impelled David Jones chairman Robert Savage to issue a statement to publicly support his chief executive.

With yesterday's strategy update Mr Zahra finally got the blueprint he wanted to turn the business around, including a boost to customer service and a cutting-edge omnichannel strategy designed to service customers whichever way they chose to interact with the department store.

"Today's about drawing a line in the sand, righting the wrongs of the past and moving forward," Mr Zahra said. As for the brutal transition he said: "It has actually only strengthened our organisation and we know we will come out of this better and much stronger and leverage the upside when it does come."

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