Myer has building blocks in place

Myer chief Bernie Brookes says his plans to step down from the nation's biggest department store next August remain on track despite the retailer set to enjoy its "time in the sun" just as a new CEO takes over.

Myer chief Bernie Brookes says his plans to step down from the nation's biggest department store next August remain on track despite the retailer set to enjoy its "time in the sun" just as a new CEO takes over.

After dragging Myer through its restructure in the hands of its private equity owners, only to float the retailer amid the gloom of the global financial crisis, Mr Brookes said on Wednesday nothing would make him happier than handing over the keys to the CEO's office to a new leader in time for a sales renaissance for the department store.

Unveiling Myer's first-quarter results, in which sales increased 0.44 per cent for the 13 weeks to October 26 to $691 million, he said the chairman would have an update for shareholders at the annual meeting next week on the CEO succession.

"If you look forward, our time in the sun will certainly occur in 2015," he said. "Two thousand and fifteen reflects what I would call the 'home to roost' for all the work the guys have put into the five-point plan."

Some of those benefits the new CEO will enjoy are starting to come through, with Myer's first-quarter growth, although small, a welcome bounce from the surprising 0.8 per cent decline in sales for the final quarter of 2012-13. The first quarter also recorded positive like-for-like sales growth of 0.41 per cent.

Mr Brookes said Myer had its floor space, stock, online platform and advertising campaign dialled to the right settings to make the most of Christmas, but he remained cautious about trading for December because the environment remained "patchy".

"We are very comfortable where we are positioned, we are in a good stock situation, our online service is thriving, our customer service scores are getting better, new merchandise is hitting the road and we have had good early sales in both Christmas trim - decorations and Christmas trees," Mr Brookes said.

But he said there were several factors influencing customer behaviour, with the general trading environment still quite volatile.

"We are getting some really good days and we are getting some not so good days, and I think that does reflect the weather. I think it also reflects what else is happening in the marketplace."

It comes as optimism about the housing market has lifted consumer confidence to its second-highest in almost three years, but a weak jobs market remains a concern.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index, published on Wednesday, found confidence rose by 1.9 per cent this month after a dip in October.

Elizabeth Knight— Page 30

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