News

25 Jun, 2019
Lego unveils sustainable bricks made from sugarcane as brand continues eco overhaul
SOURCE:
The Drum
The Drum

Lego is upping the ante on sustainability with a new range of plant-shaped bricks built from sugarcane plastic.

The Danish toy giant announced earlier this year that the reformulated, eco-friendly building blocks were set to hit shelves and now they're available for purchase.

Lego plans to roll out the bricks across most products by 2030 as part of efforts to overhaul its manufacturing processes to prioritise plant-based materials and recycled sources.

Composed of 98% polyethylene the redesigned product meet guidelines laid down by the

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) owing to the absorption of CO2 by sugar cane during the growth phase. While they are still not biodegradable, they can be recycled.

Commenting on the new range Tim Brooks, vice-president of environmental responsibility said: “At the Lego Group we want to make a positive impact on the world around us and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials."

The green ‘Plants from Plants’ range will be distributed free with purchases of $40 and more from the Lego store in the UK, US, Canada, Germany and Austria for the next few days.

Lego is the latest brand to throw its weight behind a global shift against plastic use on environmental grounds, including Coca-Cola and Evian.

24 Jun, 2019
Cameron Trainor reprises role as JB Hi-Fi managing director
Inside Retail Australia

JB Hi-Fi Group rounded out its executive team on Tuesday, with Cameron Trainor reprising his role as managing director of the JB Hi-Fi business. 

Trainor has spent the past 12 months leading the group’s merchandising function. Under Trainor’s leadership, the merchandising arm of the business implemented a revised private label strategy, as well as trade reporting, tracking, and benchmarking protocols. 

“Group merchandise remains a key focus for the group and the group merchandise team will work closely with the merchandise directors in each of the JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys business,” the company said in an announcement to investors. 

HR director for The Good Guys Lynda Blakely will take up the same role group-wide – now looking after the HR business across both JB Hi-Fi and The Good Guys. Blakely joined The Good Guys in 2016, and supported the business through a period of significant change as JB Hi-Fi acquired it. 

Additionally, JB Hi-Fi technology director Simon Page has been appointed to lead both companies as group technology director, having overseen “significant improvements” in the JB Hi-Fi business since having started in September 2015. 

“These appointments are a testament to the talent in both business,” JB Hi-Fi group chief executive Richard Murray said. 

“Following the move to our new shared support office, we remain committed to two separate and strong brands supported by integrated group functions.”

24 Jun, 2019
River Island hires ex-The White Company boss as CEO
Retail Gazette

River Island has hired the former boss of Wiggle and The White Company as its new chief executive.

Will Kernan will join office in September, and will be replacing current chief executive Ben Lewis, who is stepping down from the role after nine years.

 

Lewis, who is the nephew of River Island founder Bernard Lewis, will remain on the board as a non-executive director.

Kernan led The White Company for five years, before serving as the chief operating officer at New Look for 13 years.

“Ben steps aside following a distinguished tenure and the board is extremely grateful for his leadership,” River Island chair Clive Lewis said.

“Succession has been carefully planned and, following a rigorous selection process, we are confident Will has the right skills, experience and vision to lead the company in this exciting new chapter.”

24 Jun, 2019
Spending above average in May
Inside Retail Australia

Economy-wide spending recorded above-average growth, rising 0.7 per cent in May – above the 0.4 per cent long-term average monthly growth rate – according to the Commonwealth Bank’s Business Sales Indicator for May. 

“While there has been some concern around the state of the economy, growth in spending continues to increase,” said CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman. 

“In fact, we haven’t seen stronger spending growth for almost 18 months.

“There was a large lift in spending on utilities, potentially reflecting higher household electricity and gas consumption and the payment of quarterly power bills.”

The retail sector saw spending growth of 1 per cent, second only to spending growth on utilities (1.5 per cent). 

Spending on transportation also rose 1 per cent, while airlines saw 0.8 per cent growth, and service providers saw 0.7 per cent. 

Not every category saw growth, however, with sales in amusement and entertainment down 1.2 per cent, and clothing sales down 0.3 per cent. Automobiles and vehicles, government services and mail order/telephone order providers all saw flat sales. 

Sales grew in every state barring the Northern Territory, which fell 0.2 per cent. Victoria saw the strongest growth of 1.4 per cent, followed by Tasmania (0.7 per cent), Queensland (0.6 per cent), New South Wales and South Australia (0.5 per cent), the ACT (0.4 per cent) and Western Australia (0.2 per cent).

On an annual basis, spending grew from 5.7 per cent to 6 per cent in May, also above the 5.5 per cent long-term average pace of growth. 

24 Jun, 2019
Alex Parsons to take on CEO role at Car Advice
SOURCE:
Mumbrella
Mumbrella

Alex Parsons’ stint with Nine is set to continue, as he fills the void left by Andrew Beecher as Car Advice CEO.

Parsons had been with Nine for more than a decade, but department in 2017 wen he was chief digital officer following a restructure. After a brief stint as CEO of Adcorp, Parsons returned to the Nine family to manage the sale of the events business it had inherited when it took over Fairfax. 

The former Fairfax events portfolio – which includes the likes of the City2Surf – has now been sold off to the Ironman Group for $31m, freeing up Parsons for his new role.

Nine said the appointment comes as it looks to capitalise on the tremendous opportunity in front of its automotive publishing business, particularly following its merger with Fairfax's Drive Network. Nine noted Parsons’ strong digital credentials – including launching 9Now and rebranding Ninemsn to nine.com.au – and said the company was pleased to welcome him back into the fold on a more permanent basis.

“Alex has a strong history at Nine, including leading Nine’s initial acquisition of Car Advice, and it’s great to welcome him back,” said Greg Barnes, CFO of Nine and chairman of Car Advice. “He is a proven leader and his experience in the digital, advertising and data space will be the key as we chart the next stage of growth for Car Advice.”

He added: “Alex’s appointment marks the next step in a renewed push by Nine in the automotive category. The opportunity for him and the team is really around how they can capitalise on the assets within the combined group and build on Car Advice’s current growth trajectory.”

Parsons said he was thrilled to be taking on the role.

“Having led the acquisition of Car Advice, I have a great appreciation for both the category and the opportunity ahead of us,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with both the Car Advice team and the wider team Nine to realise its full potential across the automotive vertical.

“Nine’s audience reach and data, combined with the strength of Car Advice and Drive in the category has tremendous potential that the team and I will be singularly focused on realising.”

20 Jun, 2019
Ex-David Jones CEO

David Thomas has reportedly been named chief executive of Brandbank Group, after resigning from his post as CEO of David Jones in February.

Brandbank, which is owned by Solomon Lew’s son Peter Lew, owns the Seed and Thurley specialty fashion brands and is the local licence holder for French Connection and Nine West in Australia and New Zealand. 

Thomas will reportedly start his new role in August, according to The Age, which first reported the news on Wednesday evening.

Thomas will become the second former David Jones CEO to join the Lew retail empire, with Mark McInnes having been appointed chief executive of Premier Investments in 2011.

Premier Investments owns the brands Smiggle, Portmans, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Jacqui E and Dotti, and has a 10 per cent stake in Myer, and employs several former David Jones and Myer executives across its portfolio.

Thomas resigned from David Jones after leading the department store for 1.5 years. He was cleared of a discrimination complaint made against him by an employee last year, which the retailer said was unrelated to his departure.

18 Jun, 2019
Retail industry “clearly in recession”: NAB
Inside Retail Australia

NAB economists have stated the retail industry is “clearly in recession”, after the bank’s Monthly Business Survey for May 2019 found further deterioration in business conditions.

“While the retail industry has lagged the other sectors for some time, the recent deterioration has seen conditions in the industry fall to levels not seen since the GFC,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster said. 

“This suggests that the consumer remains highly cautious with anything but spending on essentials because of ongoing slow income growth, high debt levels and possibly some concerns over falling house prices.”

However, business confidence rose in the month by 7 points – though NAB argues that given the index’s low starting point of 0 this is shows a just-above-average result.

The sharp bump in business confidence is likely due to the federal election result, and the rate cut delivered by the RBA, and Oster suggests this bounce will be short-lived and that conditions are unlikely to turn around any time soon. 

NAB stated that it expects consumer restraint to persist for some time, while ongoing structural changes and intense competition in the sector will put further pressure on margins and drive further change in the industry.

Additionally, the Coalition’s $158 billion income tax cut package is unlikely to make a significant change to retailers, with the impact being delayed and marginal.

18 Jun, 2019
Target sales sag further for Wesfarmers
Inside Retail Australia

Wesfarmers says full-year earnings from its department stores could fall by as much as $103 million after sales at the struggling Target chain fell by 2.3 per cent so far in the second half.

The Perth-based conglomerate, which reports its full-year results on August 27, says Target’s comparable sales for the five months to May fell 2.3 per cent on the prior corresponding period and by 0.7 per cent over the year so far.

Although sales at stablemate Kmart have stabilised in the second half, Target dragged down the unit as a whole and Wesfarmers says the latter’s “current offer requires ongoing repositioning” despite continued efforts to turn around the chain.

Combined full-year earnings from two stores’ continuing operations are now expected to be between $515 million and $565 million, as much as 17 per cent down on last year’s $618 million. 

Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott says the Kmart Group’s second-half performance had been disappointing, but that it would benefit from increased investment in online and digital initiatives.

The company said on Thursday it was feeling the pressure from increased pricing competition and cautious consumer sentiment, and admitted various changes at Kmart had also resulted in a temporary shortage of goods on shelves.

Mr Scott told investors in a separate briefing there had been no notable lift in consumer sentiment after the May federal election, though the onset of colder weather had been welcome boost for sales.

“The seasonal changeover is a key driver of sales… (so) the cold weather has been helpful (even if) some of the cold weather took a while to arrive,” Mr Scott said.

Wesfarmers announced in June last year it was scaling back its Target business, cutting the size or number of stores in the chain to achieve a 20 per cent overall reduction in footprint by 2023. 

Mr Scott said on Thursday the repositioning of the department store network, which will include the introduction of more Kmart stores, had allowed its chains to compliment each other instead of competing for space and customers

Mr Scott told investors he expected further improvement after Kmart finishes cycling out DVD sales. 

Wesfarmers’ first-half profit soared to $4.5 billion from $212 million in the prior corresponding period due to $3 billion in one-off items following the demerger of supermarket Coles, and the sale of Bengalla, Kmart Tyre and Auto Service, and Quadrant Energy.

The conglomerate has since embarked on a number of acquisitions, including a $776 move for lithium developer Kidman Resources, and a so-far unsuccessful approach for rare earths miner Lynas.

This week it continued its spending spree this week with the $230 million acquisition of online retailer Catch Group, which will be rolled into the Kmart Group.

Mr Scott told analysts the company felt “the time was right” to act on opportunities.

“On the acquisition side, I know we’ve announced a few things in recent months, but I think it’s important not to get too carried away by that activity,” he said.

“We’re talking a very very small proportion of out market capitalisation, and indeed capex.” 

Mr Scott said the proposed investment in Kidman was grounded in long-term advantages. 

“We don’t know what the long-term price of lithium is going to be …what we do know is that … (the proposed acquisition) is going to be one of the lowest-cost providers globally of lithium hydroxide,” Mr Scott said. 

Shares in Wesfarmers were worth $38.25 before trade on Thursday and have climbed by 18.72 per cent, or $6.03, so far in 2019. 

 

18 Jun, 2019
Ted Baker shares plunge after 'extremely difficult' start to year
Financial Review

Ted Baker shares lost more than a quarter of their value on Tuesday after the British fashion retailer warned that underlying profit for the year would fall short of analysts' estimates after an "extremely difficult" start to 2019.

The warning underlined the task facing Lindsay Page, who was promoted to permanent boss in April as the high street retailer sought to move on from misconduct allegations against its founder and leading shareholder Ray Kelvin.

"The markets that we trade in have been extremely challenging and that has also led to levels of discounting I think we've rarely seen before, particularly in the UK," former finance chief Mr Page said.

Shares in the retailer traded 26 per cent lower at 990 pence after it also complained of the impact of unseasonable cold weather in North America, from where it derives almost a third of its revenue. The shares fell 43 per cent last year and had lost another 14 per cent in 2019 before Tuesday's opening.

"The scale of today's profit warning at Ted Baker will raise eyebrows ... there will be questions around founder Ray Kelvin's departure and the wider question of how to get Ted back on point," Peel Hunt analysts wrote.

Ted Baker reported its first drop in annual profit since 2008 in March as traditional brick and mortar apparel chains suffered in the face of online competitors and British consumers reined in spending.

Mr Kelvin, who had been CEO since the company's launch in 1988, resigned earlier that month over claims he presided over a culture of "forced hugging". He has denied all allegations of misconduct.

Hard times

In a 19-week trading update, the company, which opened its first store in Glasgow in 1988 and now has 560 stores and concessions globally, said it was focused on reining in costs and coming up with new products to turn the company around.

Known for selling suits, shirts and dresses with quirky details and bright, block prints, Ted Baker said it had faced some challenges with its spring and summer collections.

Mr Page said they had been addressed appropriately, without detailing the nature of the issues.

"I think it's a combination of weathering the storm... but also looking at some opportunities that arise from these very difficult times." he said.

Analysts said a competitive market for clothing retailers was harder to navigate.

"We believe the short-term and identifiable issues around product are being addressed swiftly but the unpredictable trading backdrop across all markets appears to have less end in sight," Liberum analysts wrote.

Ted Baker said gross margins in both its wholesale and retail businesses were lagging compared with last year, blaming "elevated levels of promotional activity".

It expects underlying profit before tax for the year to January 2020 of £50 million to £60 million, compared with a company compiled consensus of £70.9 million and last year's £63 million.

Comparable sales for the 19 weeks from January 27 to June 8, 2019 slipped 2.9 per cent on a constant currency basis.

14 Jun, 2019
Katrina Lake’s Fortune Swells $45 Million In One Day After Stitch Fix Smashes Earnings
SOURCE:
Forbes
Forbes

Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina Lake became $45 million richer in just one day after her e-commerce company delivered another quarter of double-digit growth.

The online personal shopping service, which uses a combination of data science and human stylists to send customers personalized outfits in the mail, smashed expectations in its quarterly earnings report on Wednesday evening.

Shares of Stitch Fix gained 24% in after-hours trading, opening at around $29 on Thursday morning. The stock paired some of its gains over the course of the day, but still locked in a 14.7% gain on Thursday. The jump in the stock price boosted Lake’s net worth by $45 million at market close, to $375 million. Her fortune stems from the roughly 13 million shares that she owns in the company.

Earlier this week, Lake, 36, made her debut at number 55 on Forbes’ Self-Made Women list , which ranks the richest and most successful female entrepreneurs in the country and includes the likes of Oprah, Tory Burch and Sheryl Sandberg. The minimum net worth to make this year’s list, which was expanded to 80 women from 60, was $225 million.

Stitch Fix said on Wednesday that its revenue grew 29% to $409 million in the third quarter, topping analyst estimates of $395 million. Net income fell from $9.5 million, or 10 cents per share, to $7 million, or seven cents per share, compared with the same period a year ago. However, it still topped the three-cent loss that analysts had anticipated. Stitch Fix also said that its number of active clients swelled 17% year-over-year to 3.1 million people.

“In an environment where many retailers face growth challenges, we remain confident in our ability to deliver personalization at scale using our unique combination of human judgment and data science to continue delighting clients and growing our business,” Lake said on the company’s earnings call.

14 Jun, 2019
Wesfarmers buys Catch to help bring Kmart, Target into digital age
The Sydney Morning Herald

Retail giant Wesfarmers expects the relatively tiny Catch Group will inject online savvy and a "growth culture" into its business to help brands like Kmart and Target adapt to the digital age.

The conglomerate, which also owns home improvement retailer Bunnings and office and stationery group Officeworks, acquried Catch for $230 million, seeing it as both a growth opportunity and a source of digital knowhow.

"Catch has built a really successful and scalable and business model that can continue to grow in its own right - that excites us," Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said.

"We also think that we can learn a lot from the capability of [CEO] Nati [Harpaz] and the team at Catch; that we can learn a lot about a more entrepreneurial, growth-oriented culture."

Catch Group started life in 2006 as Catch of the Day, which put one discount product on offer every 24 hours, but now stocks tens of thousands of products and has more than 1 million active customers.

A team of buyers scour the world for distressed, out-of-season or unsold products from leading brands that Catch then sells at below-market prices.

Mr Scott said Catch gave Wesfarmers access to a market it did not currently reach with its bricks and mortar department stores, given most (80 per cent) of what Kmart sells is now its own private label products.

Only about 3 per cent of sales across Kmart and Target are online, compared to around 10 per cent across the retail sector as a whole. Mr Scott said that was growing at around 50 per cent a year, with the strongest growth coming in click-and-collect orders.

"So we see the future is very much about having a high quality store footprint complimented by a world-class digital offer," Mr Scott said. "That’s what we’re building through the investment in Catch."

Catch Group managing director Nati Harpaz said Catch would "continue to deliver innovation in the online market in Australia, with the focus of delivering great value and savings to our customers."

Catch, which as recently as late last year was looking to list on the ASX, reported $262 million in revenue in the 12 months to June 30 last year, up 18 per cent on the prior year, according to accounts lodged with the corporate regulator.

Catch's turnover equates to less than one percent of Wesfarmers' $67 billion in revenue last year, and about 3 per cent of the Kmart and Target's $8.8 billion in sales.

Catch made an underlying profit of $1 million in 2018, down from $7 million a year earlier, and ran at a $4.2 million loss when including a write down to the value of its LUX Products brand, which was shut down.

The company's co-founders, brothers Hezi and Gabby Leibovich, own about 90 per cent of the company, after buying out previous investors in the past three years, which have included James Packer and Seek co-founder Andrew Bassat.

The Catch aquisition is the latest in a string of transactions under Mr Scott that are reshaping Wesfarmers.

This year alone Wesfarmers has made a $776 million takeover bid for Kidman Resources - a miner and producer of the lithium used in batteries for electric vehicles - which is likely to go through; and an as-yet unsuccessful $1.5 billion bid for the rare earths miner Lynas Corp.

Last year it spun off its largest business, Coles, into a separate ASX-listed company, and kept 15 per cent of its shares. It has also recently sold stakes in two coal mines for a combined $1.5 billion, and Kmart Tyre and Auto for $350.

Mr Scott said Wesfarmers' two live transactions - Catch and Kidman, worth about $1 billion together - were relatively modest considering Wesfarmers' $46 billion market capitalisation.

He said he felt no urgency in putting Wesfarmers' flush balance sheet to work with further acquisitions, and would only buy new businesses when they would improve returns for shareholders.

 

12 Jun, 2019
Wesfarmers to purchase Catch Group
Inside Retail

Australian retail conglomerate Wesfarmers has entered an agreement to acquire Catch Group for $230 million. 

Should the deal be cleared by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the online marketplace will continue to operate as an independent business unit under the leadership of Kmart Group managing director Ian Bailey.

Bailey noted Catch has built a successful marketplace underpinned by leading technology and data capabilities, and that these capabilities would be leveraged to grow the capabilities and accelerate the consumer-driven, omni-channel initiatives across department stores Kmart and Target. 

“This will further drive best practice in supply chain, fulfilment and online execution across our brands, including opportunities for Target to secure online fulfilment capability and productivity benefits,” Bailey said. 

“Catch will also benefit from the support of Kmart Group’s scale and capabilities to drive its continued growth in its existing marketplace business.”

Catch Group managing director and chief executive Nati Harpaz said the Catch team was looking forward to working with Kmart, and that the marketplace would continue to focus on delivering great value and savings to its customers. 

The merger, according to Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott, is consistent with Wesfarmers’ approach to capital allocation, focus on improving its digital and data capabilities, and investment in opportunities adjacent to its existing businesses. 

“Catch Group has a high calibre management team and a leading e-commerce platform with quality fulfilment assets,” Scott said. 

“This acquisition represents an opportunity to accelerate Wesfarmers and Kmart Group’s digital and e-commerce capabilities whilst continuing to invest in the unique customer and supplier proposition provided by Catch Group.”

Wesfarmers confirmed the acquisition will be funded by existing debt facilities, and is not expected to affect the business’ existing credit ratings. The business completed a demerger from Coles last year, providing further capital for investments, while retaining a minority ownership in the supermarket.

11 Jun, 2019
Ex-Aldi exec joins Super Retail Group
Inside Retail Australia

Super Retail Group has appointed a new managing director to its auto division, with ex-Aldi managing director Benjamin Ward taking up the position as of July 29, 2019. 

Ward will relocate to Brisbane from Dusseldorf, Germany, to replace outgoing executive Chris Wilesmith who will exit the business in August 2019. 

“Benjamin has consistently prioritised a customer-first approach to retail management, which makes him an excellent fit for our organisation,” Super Retail Group managing director and chief executive officer Anthony Heraghty said. 

“His most recent position, driving a technology focus to the in-store and online retail experience [of Aldi], makes him an ideal candidate to lead Supercheap Auto in its next phase of growth.”

According to Heraghty, Ward has been instrumental to the global transformation of the German supermarket, and will bring a fresh perspective to the position through his wealth of global retailing and supply-chain experience.

Ward said he was excited about the position, and looks forward to driving the next phase of the business’ growth. 

“I want to build on the renowned strong culture among our engaged team members to provide an even better experience for our customers,” Ward said. 

Wilesmith will depart after 12 years at Super Retail Group, where he was responsible for Supercheap Auto’s retail stores, trade and online business, as well as the company’s Auto Trade Direct and AutoCrew businesses. 

Prior to joining Super Retail Group, he was general manager at Toys ‘R’ Us and previously spent 13 years with Woolworths, holding senior management roles in merchandise, as well as retail operations within Dick Smith and Big W. 

Wilesmith’s exit follows ex-chief executive Peter Birtles’ departure, who hastened his exit from the business following a $43 million staff underpayment. 

11 Jun, 2019
Greencross names new CEO, fills out management team
Inside Retail Australia

Three months after de-listing from the ASX and transitioning to a private company, Greencross Limited has hired Bras N Things boss George Wahby to replace Simon Hickey as its new chief executive. 

Wahby has led Bras N Things since 2014, and prior to that, he ran McWilliam’s Wine Group for six years. He will join the pet car retailer in August. 

The company’s current chief executive Simon Hickey will leave the business, with executive chairman Paul Mirabelle serving as acting chief executive until Wahby starts. 

“As Greencross transitions into life as a private company, the board has determined that now is the right time to identify the future generation of leadership and have sought the appointment of a leader to take the business through the next phase of growth,” Mirabelle said in a statement. 

“George has considerable experience building consumer-focused brands, developing new products and growing ominchannel retail experiences – all areas that current owners TPG Capital is looking to invest in.”

Wahby oversaw Bras N Things’ international expansion efforts, and built on like-for-like sales and earnings growth in the Australian market.

“The board would like to thank Simon Hickey for his significant contribution to the company since he joined,” TPG Capital head of Australia and New Zealand Joel Thickins said. 

“Simon has led the business through a challenging trading environment, successfully navigated Greencross into private ownership and positioned Australasia’s largest integrated consumer facing pet care company for ongoing success.”

Wahby isn’t the only management change, with several more appointments made in the shift to private ownership. 

Andrew McInerny will serve as the group’s chief operating officer of veterinary services, having formerly held the role of chief operating officer of chief operation officer of national home doctor services. 

Scott Charters will re-join Greencross on June 3, taking up the role of chief operating officer of retail. Charters previously held management positions at Pet Barn and Greencross between 2011 and 2016. 

The business also appointed a new chief people and culture officer in Chris Lamb, replacing the outgoing Vince Pollaers, as of July 1.

11 Jun, 2019
Afterpay sells vision as founders sell down
Financial Review

 

Of course it’s irrational that investors who preach diversification to their clients don’t like it when company insiders take money off the table to chase diversification of their own. But who said markets were rational?

So it will be fascinating to see how the market reacts to news that the founders and management team of white-hot fintech Afterpay are doing just that – co-founders Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar will reap about $100 million from shares sales, while executive director David Hancock gets a handy $8.7 million.

We won’t see the reaction for a few days, because the selldown was wrapped up in a trading halt that contained two crucial pieces of news.

The first is that the buy-now, pay-later leader will raise $300 million via a fully underwritten capital rasing to be run by Citi.

11 Jun, 2019
Greencross names new CEO, fills out management team
Inside Retail

Three months after de-listing from the ASX and transitioning to a private company, Greencross Limited has hired Bras N Things boss George Wahby to replace Simon Hickey as its new chief executive.

Wahby has led Bras N Things since 2014, and prior to that, he ran McWilliam’s Wine Group for six years. He will join the pet car retailer in August.

The company’s current chief executive Simon Hickey will leave the business, with executive chairman Paul Mirabelle serving as acting chief executive until Wahby starts.

“As Greencross transitions into life as a private company, the board has determined that now is the right time to identify the future generation of leadership and have sought the appointment of a leader to take the business through the next phase of growth,” Mirabelle said in a statement.

“George has considerable experience building consumer-focused brands, developing new products and growing ominchannel retail experiences – all areas that current owners TPG Capital is looking to invest in.”

Wahby oversaw Bras N Things’ international expansion efforts, and built on like-for-like sales and earnings growth in the Australian market.

“The board would like to thank Simon Hickey for his significant contribution to the company since he joined,” TPG Capital head of Australia and New Zealand Joel Thickins said.

“Simon has led the business through a challenging trading environment, successfully navigated Greencross into private ownership and positioned Australasia’s largest integrated consumer facing pet care company for ongoing success.”

Wahby isn’t the only management change, with several more appointments made in the shift to private ownership.

Andrew McInerny will serve as the group’s chief operating officer of veterinary services, having formerly held the role of chief operating officer of chief operation officer of national home doctor services.

Scott Charters will re-join Greencross on June 3, taking up the role of chief operating officer of retail. Charters previously held management positions at Pet Barn and Greencross between 2011 and 2016.

The business also appointed a new chief people and culture officer in Chris Lamb, replacing the outgoing Vince Pollaers, as of July 1.

11 Jun, 2019
Meet the most powerful Australian in fashion
Financial Review

The world of fashion turns on an extremely subjective axis. At its pinnacle is a small group of people who don’t just influence who’s in and who’s out: they decide.

They are the fashion mavens, whose antennae are carefully attuned to taste and desire, and whose knowledge of everything that’s gone before allows them to tell in a glance what’s merely derivative, and what’s genuinely new.

Laura Brown is one of them.

“Are there seven ways to tell if someone’s talented? No. It’s an ease, a confidence,” she says. “It’s someone who has metabolised the business they want to be in and they’re very clear about it.”

The same could be said of Brown herself, who is global editor-in-chief of InStyle Magazine. Australian-born, she is now based in New York, at the epicentre of fashion, an industry in which she is without a doubt the most powerful Antipodean today.

This is the woman who, way back in 2003, wrote a profile of obscure denim brand Colovos; it took the rest of the world 16 years to catch up – in 2019, Colovos won the Woolmark Prize. Brown was a Woolmark judge this year; a measure of just how far she has come. Approximately 16,000 kilometres, actually, from a farm in Camden, south-west of Sydney, to downtown Manhattan, where her office sits in a gleaming building that overlooks the East River.

Much has been said about the rumours of fashion magazines’ death, but for Brown, they are greatly exaggerated. Named editor-in-chief at InStylein 2016, she sits at the helm of a publication with a print readership of 7.3 million and a digital reach of 8.5 million.

She is completely different to what you’d expect of someone in her position. She’s goofy and approachable; she has fun.

— Tyler McCall, Fashionista website

With a single cover, Brown can propel a designer or star to the A-list. She has been an early champion of many a fledgling label that has gone on to huge acclaim, including Brandon Maxwell (Lady Gaga’s former stylist turned red-carpet designer), Pierpaolo Piccioli (now creative director at Valentino) and it-girl label Ganni.

For her first InStyle cover, she dressed Emily Ratajkowski in a custom Off-White tee by her friend Virgil Abloh, six months before he went from streetwear darling to creative director at Louis Vuitton. The tee, with “In” on the front in ’80s typeface and “Style” on the back, was sold on Abloh’s website for $US120. It sold out within days.

Brown, who has been in magazines since she was 19, is a new kind of fashion editor. She is accessible and friendly (she greets everyone at the LUXURY shoot with a hug before apologising: “I’m a hugger, sorry”).

Fashionista website deputy editor Tyler McCall, whose job is to interview big-name editors like Brown, says she is “completely different to what you’d expect of someone in her position. She’s goofy and approachable; she has fun. She’s not in some office, removed from everyone.”

It’s quite rare in fashion to be exactly yourself, all the time. Not Laura. She walks in the room and people want to hang out with her.

— Nicky Zimmermann, designer

On her Instagram feed, Brown hams it up to her 285,000 followers, sipping wine with celebrities not just because they might be on her next cover, but because she genuinely has a rapport and friendship with many of them.

Kellie Hush, former Harper’s BAZAAR editor-in-chief and longtime friend of Brown’s, says that Brown once rang her to ask a favour. “She said, ‘I’ve got this friend coming to Sydney, she doesn’t know anyone. Will you take her out for dinner?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I get her phone number and it’s Monica Lewinsky.”

Designer Nicky Zimmermann says she believes Brown has been so successful because she’s always been this way. “It’s quite rare in fashion to be exactly yourself, all the time. People come to functions and hide themselves. Not Laura. She walks in the room and people want to hang out with her. She’s very disarming.”

In Brown’s small, unassuming office (for a fashion editor, anyway), there are two photos of Oprah Winfrey, and they (along with a wall of InStyle covers) are some of the only clues to the woman’s enormous power and reach. “You know what’s great about Oprah?” Brown asks in her still-broad Australian accent. “She’s Oprah, obviously, and she’s all those glorious things you imagine. But she’s kind of a really good hang. I’m not saying I would go to Santa Barbara and have drinks with her every day … But we’ll have a drink and she’s very natural in herself. She doesn’t come in with a halo on.”

Maybe. But it also takes a certain kind of person to be the person Oprah’s hanging with: the two photos are proof of that. The first was taken when Brown was executive editor at US Harper’s BAZAAR, the second is of both women holding that first framed photo. It was taken in 2018, when Brown ran Oprah on the cover after her rousing Golden Globes speech that inspired thousands of #Oprah2020 tweets. Oprah told Brown she wasn’t running for office, but that was beside the point: Brown wasn’t afraid to put politics front and centre (and, incidentally, the story resulted in InStyle’s highest monthly digital audience at that point).

In some ways, she hasn’t had a choice. Brown took over the editorship at InStyle in 2016, three months before Donald Trump won the presidential election. The next day, she shouted the office – mainly Millennial women – pizza and cake, and told them to do whatever they needed to do to take care of themselves. Then she got to work. “You have to have a point of view,” she says. “You have to fricking show up and have something to say.”

Fashion has always been political but often fashion magazines have not. Brown is turning that on its head. Joe Biden has appeared in InStyle, and so has civil rights advocate John Lewis and former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.

When Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the US military, Brown asked her team to find a “rad transgender woman” serving her country (they did; army captain Jennifer Peace spoke to InStyle about how the US government spends more on erectile dysfunction than trans healthcare).

Brown herself walked in the 2017 Women’s March, and, the weekend after the Christchurch massacre, posted on Instagram that she was heading into the next week with “aggressive kindness”. She invited her followers to join her.

“You just can’t ignore the divisions in this country,” she says. But plenty of fashion glossies do ignore politics and stick to escapism. And when they do dip their toes into political waters, it’s with mixed success. US Voguemade history and headlines when it endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 (the first time it had made a public bid for a candidate), but last year it landed in hot water after publishing a story in defence of Harvey Weinstein’s wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman.

I love making things. I can slap down an issue and go, ‘I did that.’ I love having that ownership.”

— Laura Brown, 'InStyle' magazine

“I don’t sit there and go, ‘Eff Trump’ all day,” says Brown. “I don’t think that’s clever. A lighter hand is more powerful than a shaking fist.” What she does, instead, is highlight leaders who she thinks are “badass”. She even put that word on the cover.

“At first I did think, wow, ‘ass’ looks really big on the cover… but how else do you describe these women and what they do?” She shrugs. No advertisers pulled out, and now, “Badass Women” is an annual issue.

Brown’s first memory of fashion, she says in her signature self-deprecating way, spoke to her “delusions of grandeur at an early age”. She was 14 and watching a Woolmark fashion show to celebrate Australia’s bicentenary at the Sydney Opera House.

“It was Karl Lagerfeld and Claude Montana. I fell for it then and there.” It was more than the clothes, she says; it was the entire world that the show represented. “These people, they were the most brilliant, the most creative. I thought, ‘God, that’s what life can be like.’ ”

To this day, she remains enamoured of the physical manifestations of fashion. “I love making things,” she says. “I say to influencers and people floating around taking pictures of themselves: what do you make? What do you produce? I can slap down an issue of InStyle once a month or a story every week and go, ‘I did that.’ I love having that ownership.”

She’s done exactly that for more than 25 years now, cutting her teeth at Australian Family and Harper’s BAZAAR in Sydney, before leaving to try her luck in the US. She arrived on September 4, 2001. It would have been understandable if she came home after September 11, but Brown chose to tough it out in her new home, where she became The Australian’s New York fashion correspondent.

Stints at Tina Brown’s Talk magazine, W and Details followed before she became executive editor at US Harper’s BAZAAR in 2005. There, she developed an ease with the celebrities she featured in the magazine and a knack for distilling the exact moment for that all-important cover shot: the difference between someone buying the magazine or not.

“You can’t force a photo,” she says. “I was on so many shoots where the editor was like, ‘Right, you need to get her wearing this dress and in this pose and doing this kind of smile.’ And you can try to persuade, but at the end of the day you’re working with a human being who’s going to do something or they’re not.”

It sounds overly simple, but identifying that actors, models, singers and designers are human beings is something of a revelation for many fashion magazines, whose profiles and covers can often feel formulaic. “Number one, I don’t shoot a woman for the magazine who I don’t respect. I don’t care if you have a huge following, I don’t care if you’re going to promote it,” she says. (Case in point: in her three years at InStyle, exactly zero Kardashian-Jenners have graced the cover.)

I used to have to chase Jennifer Aniston around all the time because she sold, but digital has changed that.

— Laura Brown, 'InStyle' magazine

Historically, women who are not blonde, thin and beautiful have not sold magazines. But under Brown, InStyle’s covers have become more diverse. She’s featured the likes of Janet Jackson, a 53-year-old woman of colour, and Melissa McCarthy, a plus-size woman. “That idea of the cookie-cutter model on the cover is so old-fashioned,” says Brown. “I really find it so dull. I am so fricking lucky to sit in the same room as Melissa McCarthy.”

Maybe, she says, this is the silver lining of magazines not being as dependent on news-stand sales as they once were. “I used to have to chase Jennifer Aniston around all the time because she sold, but digital has changed that.

“It means that you really have to have a strong sense of identity, as opposed to ‘Here’s a model, here’s the woman with a movie out this month, here’s the one with the Instagram followers.’ We don’t do that, and I think that’s how we’ve survived.”

Brown has not been immune to the changes in the publishing industry. A year after she became editor, InStyle’s owner, Time Inc, was bought out by Meredith, a midwestern company whose publications tended more to families than fashion.

Since the purchase, Meredith has sold off four titles, including Timemagazine. In 2016, Meredith closed InStyle UK’s print edition; 18 months later, its website was shut down, too.

Though it’s in Brown’s best interests to believe in her product, her advocacy for print is real. “Print is your billboard. It is your sense of occasion,” she says. Vogue editor Diana Vreeland’s motto was, “The eye has to travel.” Brown’s is, “The eye gets tired.” Print is the queen, digital is the carriage it rides on.

It should be said, though, that Brown is also adept with video and social media. In fact, her former InStyle publisher Jess Cagle says Brown’s ease with digital storytelling was one of the reasons she was hired.

There is a feeling that someday Brown might be up for the top job in fashion. Anna Wintour, now 69, has been editor-in-chief of US Vogue for more than 30 years, and there are rumours she will soon retire and that Brown – in many ways, the anti-Anna, with her warmth and playfulness – will take over.

It’s testament to her Australian openness that she speaks on the record about this, even with an InStyle publicist in the room. “Look,” she says, “I’m flattered that anybody thinks I’m up to the task of any big job. But the people in charge need to think of the person they really want.

“If a job requires me to not be myself, I wouldn’t take it. I just couldn’t change, even if I wanted to.”

6 Jun, 2019
Toys ‘R’ Us returning to Australia with online focus and small-format stores
Inside Retail Australia

Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us are returning to the Australian market through an exclusive licensing agreement with Hobby Warehouse. 

The agreement allows Hobby Warehouse to sell through the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us websites in Australia and New Zealand, including private label products owned by parent company Tru Kids Brands – such as Fastlane, Imaginarium, Koala Baby, and Koala Kids. This is the first time Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us have had a presence in the New Zealand market.

Launching on June 12, the offering will initially be online-only, but Hobby Warehouse plans to launch smaller-format ‘experience centres’ for Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us beginning in 2020. 

“We are delighted to bring the much-loved brands of Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us back to Australia and introduce them to New Zealand,” Hobby Warehouse chief executive and Toys ‘R’ Us Australia director Louis Mittoni said. 

“Our mission is to encourage children to engage with as many forms of play as we possibly can. Hobby Warehouse is a digital native with a keen understanding of how to accelerate and match the requirements of the modern shopper.”

Tru Kids executive vice president of global licensing and general counsel James Young said that Mittoni and his team have a strong digital vision, and understand the heritage of the Tru Kids brands, as well as how to evolve this heritage for the modern consumer. 

“This is an exciting milestone for our company as we continue to grow Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us around the world,” Young said.

Tru Kids Brands president and chief executive Richard Barry confirmed to Inside Retail in February that the company had begun discussions with partners in Australia, and that the brand would focus on serving customers through all retail channels.

Prior to its demise, Toys ‘R’ Us was the largest toy retailer in the country with a market share of over 20 per cent, according to IBISWorld senior industry analyst Kim Do. 

The retailer will be returning to a very different market, however, with its collapse changing the way consumers shop for toys.

“The company’s decline… accelerated the rate at which department stores and online-only retailers have captured market share, as consumers have shifted their spending away from industry retailers,” Do said. 

The shift away from physical retail, and towards a more online-centric offer, should make the retailers re-entry smoother.

“Previously, the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us business model in Australia was focused primarily on large physical retail stores which had high fixed costs and extended periods of relatively low sales due to seasonal factors,” said commercial advisor Kevin Moore, who helped negotiate the agreement. 

“Going forward, the business model for Australia and New Zealand will be online focused, with smaller and fewer physical ‘experience centres’ that allow children and their families and friends to see and touch our products.”

According to IBISWorld data, the toy and game retailing industry is expected to see a revenue drop of almost 16 per cent over 2019, with the market expecting to generate around $740 million – down from the $880.2 million seen in the prior year.

6 Jun, 2019
Amazon Fashion drops first influencer collection
Inside Retail Australia

Amazon Fashion has just released the first collection from an influencer as part of its new shopping experience, The Drop.

For the next 30 hours, customers will be able to purchase pieces made on-demand from the collection designed by influencer Paola Alberdi via the Amazon app or mobile browser. The Drop collections are available in more than 100 countries and regions. 

Fashionistas are encouraged to sign up for Amazon text alerts, as the next Drop influencer collaboration could be released at any time. Other influencers slated to design future collections include Emi Suzuki, Sierra Furtado, Leonie Hanne and Patricia Bright.

“Influencers are able to turn their creativity and style into beautifully designed collections that capture the latest street style trends from around the world,” said a statement from Amazon. 

“Amazon Fashion is excited to enable influencers to be designers and bring fresh Fashion assortments directly to customers via The Drop.”

Amazon Fashion is also offering Staples By The Drop, wardrobe staple pieces to complement the influencer collections.

“I am beyond grateful to Amazon for entrusting me to be the first influencer to launch The Drop, their innovative new shopping experience. I have worked hard for many years to create a brand that is true to myself and did the same with this collection,” said Alberdi. 

“Fashion can be so expensive but my belief is that it should not have to be expensive to feel beautiful. The primary goal of my collection is simply to help women feel good about themselves. I’m so excited to share these pieces with the world!”

Other retail brands have been tapping into the power of influencers and collaborating with them on collections for some time, such as Nordstrom, which is currently selling the Cupcakes and Cashmere range from fashion blogger and designer, Emily Schuman. 

When the department store engaged with influencer Arielle Charna in 2017, her collection reportedly brought in $1 million in sales in less than 24 hours, according to an article from Fashionista.

4 Jun, 2019
Lush Tokyo store marks beauty brand’s largest yet in Asia
Inside Retail

The new Lush Tokyo store opened on Saturday is its largest yet in Asia, a three-storey, 1240sqm flagship.

Billed as “a global destination, with a curation of the best of Lush as you know it,” the Lush Shinjuku store is housed in the southeast wing of Shinjuku Station, the world’s busiest railway hub.

From the outside, it is hard to miss: a towering four-storey 1024cm x 352cm LED screen dominates the street frontage (the building’s fourth floor will house back-office functions for now).

Inside, Lush Tokyo promises an “experiential, imaginative retail space showcasing Lush’s innovation in technology, with exclusive product drops, and new ways to shop”.

Digital screens feature throughout the retail space, as well as projection installations, positioned to communicate key messages through visual content and designed to overcome language barriers.

Coinciding with the store’s opening is the release of an upgraded Lush Labs app for Android and iOS featuring English, Korean, Japanese and Simplified Chinese. Visitors can use the app’s scan function to browse product information while in store, at home and even in the store’s digital ‘shoppable window’ which will be active 24 hours a day for customers and passers-by to scan and shop curated collections and product drops.

Lush says using lens technology, via the app, to demonstrate products and product information is a step towards minimising packaging and reducing water wastage by showcasing products through videos.The content placed in windows and on the giant screen “will reflect the mood of Shinjuku at that time and aims to capture the attention of passers-by and commuters”. It will showcase Lush’s values, campaigns and creativity.

Inner beauty

Lush says the ambience of the new store aims to change the customer’s mood, whether it is a skin consultation, spa treatment or something sensory to speed you up or slow you down.

“Products, treatments and experiences with benefits beyond the body exist here and build in intensity as customers move through the floors. Each floor offers an uplifting, interactive and playful space that promotes exploration and creativity with benefits beyond the body through different materials, lighting, products, content and merchandising to set the tone and spark joy.”

The second floor offers what Lush describes as “a surreal sensory experience using colour therapy and generative art inspired by bath art to create an interactive digital mood”.

“Innovative use of technology heightens the senses and plays with mood, data from sensors that map customer position and movement will be used to activate sounds from within the displays. This is just one way the shop can respond to individual customers, creating targeted experiences filled with surreal moments.”

The new Lush Tokyo store opened its doors on Saturday, June 1. A spa planned for the third floor will open within the next few months and the company says it is evaluating using some of the fourth-floor space for customer engagement as well. 
 

 

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