Customer data, digital strategy to underpin Myer's future growth

Myer's new CEO Richard Umbers plans to restore growth for the company after it reported a 23 percent drop in net profit after tax for the first half of the 2015 financial year.

Myer has said that data and digital will play a role in underpinning the company's immediate strategy to focus on reversing its results of the first half of the 2015 financial year, and help drive growth for the business.

The Australian department store giant reported for the first half of 2015 that net profit after tax was down 23.1 percent, to AU$62.2 million. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) also dipped by 15.6 percent, to AU$145.3 million.

Despite this, the company said it experienced a 1.5 percent growth in total sales for the half to AU$1,763 million. This was driven by Q2 total sales lifting 2.5 percent, to AU$1,072 million, and January total sales growing by 3.9 percent.

At the same time, Myer highlighted that it continued to experience strong growth in online sales as a result of improvements made to the presentation, functionality, and stability of its website. It also said it continued to make ongoing improvements to fulfilment processes, and increased customer engagement, particularly in store via iPads, which increased the uptake of its click-and-collect offering.

Recently appointed Myer chief executive officer and manager director Richard Umbers said it is evident that digitisation is changing the way that customers are shopping, and it is necessary for the company to focus on meeting those customer needs.

Umbers took over the role from long-standing CEO Bernie Brookes in March to drive the company's ongoing transformation project.

"Some elements of the existing strategy represent solid retail fundamentals. However, overall it did not deliver a business model able to respond to this new retail environment, and we have lost relevance with some customers," he said.

"There is strong evidence that department stores can transform and be inspirational to customers. Our international peers have responded to disruption by leading in omni-channel, by reinventing the in-store experience, overhauling the range, and by differentiating through innovation.

"Our new strategy to bring the love of shopping to life will be guided by a clear vision and a plan to win back market share, to respond faster to change, and deliver a sustainable recovery in earnings.

"An extensive customer research project using internal and external data sources has delivered a detailed analysis of the current and future Myer customer, and the merchandise and services they want to enrich their lifestyle."

Looking forward, the company said it will use data to help accelerate the company's digital-focused omni-channel strategy, and leverage its existing Myer One program. It also plans to roll out a number of new sales-driven initiatives across its physical stores and online, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Other enablers of the company's new strategy will include customer-driven decision making, where all decisions will be guided using a targeted approach to current and future customers; increasing merchandise assortment and in-store services; and maximising productivity from all assets to increase returns.

The company now expects its FY15 net profit after tax to be between AU$75 million to AU$80 million, taking into consideration that one-off costs in the second half related to the strategic review will be approximately AU$7 million.

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