One of the world’s largest retailers has undertaken a search for a new CEO to execute a massive transformation. But getting to the interview will require U.S. executives to take a very long flight and the successful applicant will need good listening skills to decipher the accent of co-workers. With annual revenues last year of roughly $57 billion USD, Australia’s Woolworths Limited would rank as the 10th largest U.S. retailer ahead of notable companies such as Lowe’s, Sears Holdings, Best Buy and Macy’s. Now the company is looking for a new CEO after Grant O’Brien announced plans to step down after nearly four years in the top job and 28 years with the company. The interesting thing about his departure is that it was announced only one month after Woolworth Limited unveiled a three-year master plan to drive growth across its range of businesses. “At the recent investor day we set out clear strategies to grow our businesses over the next three years and we have been working hard to execute these plans. However, the recent performance has been disappointing and below expectations. I believe it is in the best interests of the company for new leadership to see these plans to fruition,” O’Brien said. “I approached the chairman and expressed to him that I am committed to a smooth transition to a new CEO and wanted to give the board sufficient time to consider its options.”
The single-digit percentage rise of catalogs over the last few years has been recognized by the national “paper of record.” Catalogs are alive and well, says The New York Times.
“From Anthropologie to American Girl, Pottery Barn to Patagonia, retailers are still relying on direct mail even as they spend considerable resources on improving their websites to accommodate the steady increase in online shopping,” wrote Times media reporter Rebecca R. Ruiz yesterday in a story titled “Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times.”
Also flagged as a sign of renewed health for catalogs was JC Penney’s announcement last week that it would return to the channel.
Ruiz noted that the number of catalogs mailed started showing a slight increase two years ago, following a steep decline in 2007. That was the year that a drastic rise in postal rates for flats caused nearly half of catalog titles to cease publishing. The 12 billion catalogs mailed in 2013 is about 8 billion fewer than what was posted in 2006. The Times story notes that retailers continuing to invest in catalogs do so for good reason.
It quotes a Direct Marketing Association figure that 90 million Americans buy from catalog and that, according to the American Catalog Mailers Association, they spend an average of $850 million annually. Retail analyst Bruce Cohen of Kurt Salmon Associates is quoted as saying that “there are moments when people want to slow down, and there’s still an important place for the catalog.”