Myer CEO Bernie Brookes Apologises After Huge Backlash On NDIS Comments

Sarah-Jane Clarke and Bernie Brookes sit front row during the Myer Spring/Summer Fashion Launch show as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival Sydney 2011. Photo: Getty/Lisa Maree Williams

Myer boss Bernie Brookes has issued an apology, after yesterday saying a levy to fund better disability care in Australia would mean less people spent money shopping.

This morning Brookes said Myer supported the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and apologised for any offence his remarks caused.

“As a business, we are sensitive to imposts on the consumer by the government as this adds to negative consumer sentiment and that adversely impacts sales, profit and jobs,” Brookes said in a statement.

Brookes stuck to his guns though, saying Myer still believes any new government initiatives should be funded through existing revenue streams.

“However, I do apologise to those who have taken offence to my comments about an increase in taxes,” he said.

Brookes made the comments yesterday at a Macquarie conference, where professional investors — many of them fund managers who invest in companies like Myer — listen to high-profile Australian chief executives.

Photo: Getty/Mark Metcalfe

Speaking at the conference on Wednesday, Brookes said the new levy announced by the Prime Minister that day would mean customers were less likely to spend money.

“Suddenly the Medicare levy costs them another $300 from July next year and that’s $300 they might have spent with us,” he said.

Myer shares finished more than four per cent down yesterday after the comments, though not as a result of Brookes’ remarks according to one investment analyst.

While generating a lot of headlines, his comments were “negligible to the [Myer’s] share price,” IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas told Business Insider.

Myer was down again today in early trade, along with its main rivals.

DJs was down 0.7 per cent, The Reject Shop was down around two per cent and the market was down just over 0.6%.

Myer was down 3.5 per cent at the time of writing but was staring to recover.

“Harvey Norman is down on no news,” Lucas said.

Myer, like other consumer discretionary companies, is up and down on the headwinds affecting the sector, he said, adding that it is one of the most shorted stocks, which could explain the recent moves in its price.

“It [Myer] is one of the most shorted stocks,” on the Australian market, he said.

This makes it volatile, and it is “not uncommon” to see 1-3 per cent moves in consumer discretionary shares such as Myer, Lucas explained.

Read Brookes’ full statement below:

To clarify and give substance to comments perhaps taken out of context, we are absolutely supportive of any well constructed support for those with disabilities and that view seems reflected across the community. I want to make it clear that Myer supports the introduction of an NDIS. Like many Australian we support a scheme like the NDIS that will support the needs of individuals , families and carers for those with a disability.

I apologise to those who may have been offended or hurt by the comments I made.

As a business, we are sensitive to imposts on the consumer by the government as this adds to negative consumer sentiment and that adversely impacts sales, profit and jobs. Ideally we would like any government initiative to be funded within the revenue stream it has, rather than through a new or additional tax take.
However, I do apologise to those who have taken offence to my comments about an increase in taxes.

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