David Jones Chief To Quit

By Rory Betteridge | 01 Oct 2015

After just over a year in the role, David Jones chief Iain Nairn has resigned from his position, at which he resided over a close to 30 percent jump in operating profit in the past year.

The retailer’s owner, South African group Woolworths Holdings, announced yesterday that Nairn, resigning for personal reasons, would stay on in an advisory capacity for three months, with former Marks & Spencer executive John Dixon set to fill the vacant role as of next January.

Woolworths CEO Ian Moir had nothing but praise for Nairn, telling Fairfax of his significant contribution to the Australian business, both through his position at David Jones and his earlier role with Country Road. Nairn’s tenure saw the reversal of a four-year slide in earnings, with the company posting its strongest sales period in eight years last June.

Since Woolworths took control of David Jones, shortly after Nairn assumed his board position, the company has filtered out 180 brands from its range, replacing them with fewer high-profile mid-market labels, including Seed, FCUK and Marcs, and giving the reclaimed store space to in-house brands such as Country Road, Mimco, Witchery and Trenery.

“It’s turning into a world-class department store,” Moir told Fairfax. “We’ve only had one year of it, yet the comparable store growth was 3.7 per cent, with second-half comps up 6.5 per cent. It’s a much more profitable business than it was.”

Dixon has been with Marks & Spencer for over 25 years, serving on the brand’s board as Director of Foods since 2009 and overseeing the £5 billion food business turnaround. His appointment at David Jones fuels rumours that the company is keen to break into the gourmet food market.

“John (Dixon)’s appointment reflects our long-term strategy to take the David Jones business to the next level,” Moir said. “John is a world-class retailer who brings with him a powerful combination of international food and fashion expertise supported by large-scale retail systems and management experience.”

Speculation grows that the move may have been a long time coming, with a Guardian profile on Dixon claiming that he was “leaving this great company after being given the chance to become chief executive at another firm”. While it wasn’t known which firm he was referring to, it would appear he had his eye set on David Jones.

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