Roger Corbett returns to Woolworths

Marianna Massey/Getty Images for Woolworths

Roger Corbett, the former CEO of Woolworths, is returning to the troubled supermarket group as an advisor to the board of directors.

From December 1, he will advise on issues relating to the performance of the company and on business improvement opportunities. He will also be a mentor to senior management.

Corbett was an executive director of Woolworths and managing director of BIG W in 1990, managing director retail from July 1997 and group CEO from January 1999 until September 2006.

His time as CEO was marked by eight years of annual double digit profit growth.

Woolworths shares were up 3.88% today to $24.63 but are still well down on the year’s high of $34.71.

“Roger Corbett is uniquely placed and eminently qualified to provide insight and advice to both the Board and senior management at this particular time in Woolworths’ transformation,” says chairman Gordon Cairns.

“The board is delighted that Roger has made himself available and looks forward to working with him.”

Cairns, who was recently appointed chairman, is currently seeking a new CEO after Grant O’Brien announced in June he was stepping down after what he called disappointing results.

Sales at Woolworths supermarket have hit a wall. The retailer posted a rise of just 0.4% to $11.064 billion in first quarter food and liquor sales.

The result is well behind Coles where food and liquor sales increased 4.7% to $7.631 billion in the September quarter.

And Woolworths expects profit to fall to between $900 million to $1 billion in the first half of 2016, a 28% to 35% drop when compared to the same six months last year.

The supermarket sector in Australia is in upheaval with the arrival of low-cost global players Aldi and Costco starting to take market share from the established players in Coles and Woolworths.

The new entrants to the market have much more efficient operating models, using less floor space and less staff. According to Deutsche Bank, Aldi employs 24 staff per store in Australia compared to the 110-120 at Woolworths and Coles stores.

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