Robbie Tutt says department stores have ‘lost their way’. Picture: iStock
Robbie Tutt says department stores have ‘lost their way’. Picture: iStock

‘Not good enough’: Four things that can save Myer

A MYER heavyweight has made a stunning confession about the embattled department store's performance - but has revealed how the company might be able to turn its fortunes around.

Speaking at the 2018 Online Retailer trade event in Sydney yesterday, Myer's general manager of digital experience and omnichannel transformation Robbie Tutt made no secret of the fact the iconic 118-year-old business was struggling.

Facing a grilling from Winning Group CEO John Winning, Mr Tutt said Myer's in-store and online experience was failing Aussie customers.

"Speaking candidly, it's not good enough. It's not where it needs to be," Mr Tutt said.

"Myer has a very loyal customer base and it's a loved brand - everyone wants to see it succeed.

"But Myer is a bit like a sibling that has pissed you off - everyone wants it to get better, but what we hear from customers is that it's not quite good enough."

He said it was obvious Myer needed to change.

"Customers tell us all the time we need to do something different," he said.

"Everyone in this room knows we need to do something different - myself included."

Mr Winning claimed that Myer was "just surviving in the market now" and asked how it planned to compete with the likes of Amazon in the coming years.

"I welcome Amazon. Amazon coming to the market was inevitable, and it made people pull their socks up and up their game - it was a wakeup call," Mr Tutt said.

"How will we survive? By playing to our strengths, sticking to our core and knowing who we are and what we deliver to customers, and bringing great customer service in our 63 stores in the country."

But Mr Tutt also acknowledged the greatest dilemma plaguing Myer in today's retail climate, and said department stores had "lost their way".

"We need to understand what we provide to customers that's unique, because 60 per cent of the products we sell can be bought somewhere else," he said.

"But it's quite clear that what customers want is great customer service and team members who understand the products, so when they walk in, all their solutions are under one roof.

"My role is to get people to shop through any channel they want to shop in."

Convincing shoppers to part with more of their cash will be a tough challenge for Mr Tutt.

Earlier this year, Myer announced it lost half a billion dollars in just six months - a shocking result that caused the company to drop off the ASX200 in March.

Solomon Lew, the chairman of Myer's biggest shareholder Premier Investments, has criticised the company repeatedly, and rumours of a potential takeover by rival David Jones refuse to die.

In May, an embarrassing leaked internal memo revealed customers were growing increasingly frustrated by a widespread "I don't work for Myer" attitude from staff at concession stalls located within stores, and in January reported Aussie department store sales had stopped growing in 2009 and had remained stagnant ever since - even though the population of our country has risen by three million people in that time.

Despite those glaring problems, Mr Tutt, whose role is to "disrupt from the inside" by shaking up Myer's traditional - some might say stale - culture, is optimistic that four strategies would reverse Myer's fortunes.

They include improving customers' click and collect experience and offering a same day and next day delivery service.

"Triggered personal customer journeys" - for example, emailing a customer who bought moisturiser four months ago to remind them it might be time for a refill - is another strategy, as well as improving the in-store return process to make it digitised and "extremely simple".

According to Mr Tutt, those new methods have already led to happier customers, and he also revealed a welcome spike in the company's online growth, which improved by 50 per cent in 2017 and another 50 per cent this year.

He said Myer customers who shopped across more than one channel - such as in store and online - were worth a whopping 2.8 times more to the company than those who bought in-store only.

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