Another big shareholder wants a shake-up at Myer

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Another shareholder, this time the Copulos Group, has called for greater urgency at Myer to turnaround the department store chain.

Stephen Copulos, managing director of the Copulos Group, says Myer needs to close up to 30% of its 64 stores as soon as possible. The Copulos Group, with about 0.8% of the retailer, is the largest private shareholder.

“There’s too much focus on governance and not enough on good old-fashioned performance — the whole board needs a shake-up, the company needs a game changer,” Copulos told the Australian Financial Review.

Copulos says the company’s chair needs to be the driver, creating urgency and to be “ruthless on all activities” improving shareholder returns.

Last week Myer announced that Garry Hounsell, a veteran board director, will become chairman, replacing Paul McClintock from the end of the AGM on November 24.

Hounsell said: “I believe in the New Myer strategy which is helping the business to compete in a challenging retail environment. While I am impatient for a return to profit growth I also understand that transformations take time and discipline.

Billionaire Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, which has 10.8% of Myer, also wants better progress on the five-year New Myer strategy.

Progress on restructuring the department store has proved slower than expected.

Last month Myer posted a 1.4% drop in sales to $3.2 billion, down 0.2% on a comparable store basis, for the full year. Net profit after tax was down 1.9% to $67.9 million, but within analyst expectations.

However, CEO Richard Umbers says significant progress has been made.

“We are obviously disappointed to have not reached our target of exceeding last year’s NPAT of $69.4 million and that progress against our metrics that matter is slower than we anticipated,” he said when announcing full year results.

“However Myer has become a leaner, more productive and efficient retailer, better placed to compete in a rapidly changing environment.

“In the year ahead we will be rolling out further initiatives particularly in our strongly performing omni-channel business in anticipation of a further wave of change in consumer and competitor behaviour.”

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