David Jones just lost another boss as its South African owners restructure

SuppliedGot the chop… now departed David Jones boss John Dixon (right) in August 2017, when the retailer launched its new Bondi Junction food hall with chef Neil Perry and former brand ambassador Jesinta Franklin.

John Dixon, head of Australian fashion and food retailer David Jones, has lost his job after two years following a restructure of local operations by South African parent company Woolworths Holdings Ltd (WHL).

Dixon came to Australia following a 20-year career at another now-struggling high-street retailer, Britain’s Marks and Spencer, to become DJs CEO following the departure of Iain Nairn resigned “for personal reasons” in late 2015.

He was made CEO of WHL Australia in September last year, which included Country Road Group, but in a statement to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Woolworths said a strategic cost review resulted in a decision to simplify the Australian regional leadership structure.

“The role of regional CEO has been discontinued and consequently John Dixon will leave the group,” the company said.

He resigned as an executive director effective May 21.

Dixon was the second highest paid executive in Woolworths, pocketing R23 million ($A2.401 million).

But as the Australian retail sector in general reeled from stagnant growth and a growing online market, including the arrival of Amazon.

In January Woolworths announced a $A712.5 million non-cash impairment charge against David Jones, which it bought in 2014 for $2.1 billion.

Most of the write-down related to goodwill and brands in a “tough and unprecedented trading conditions, a cyclical downturn and structural changes”. Comparable sales fell 3.3% in the six months to December 24, 2017.

But in its statement at the time, Woolworths was pointed in saying: “This impairment has been exacerbated by delays and poor execution in certain of our key initiatives at David Jones.”

Last year the company launched a new $15 million food hall at its Bondi Junction store in Sydney as part of a three-year $100 million push into food with Rockpool chef Neil Perry retailer’s food consultant. A Melbourne standalone food store is planned for 2019.

Last week Woolworths warned of a 20% slide in earnings for FY2018.

Woolworths said the chief executives of the Group’s two Australian operating divisions David Thomas at David Jones and Scott Fyfe at Country Road Group will now report directly to company CEO Ian Moir in Cape Town.

David Jones has now had three different CEOs in the four years since Woolworths acquired the business.

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