This morning Coles Myer unveiled more
of the same
. Following a lot of back
patting about the last five years, John Fletcher failed to unveil the expected
five year strategic plan. No aspirational goals; no milestones – just a bit of
tweaking.

Subject to what should be automatic
shareholder approval, Coles Myer Limited will be re-badged as Coles Group
Limited. And that is one of the more
exciting parts of the plans.

Eight business units with 12 brands
will become three business units with ten brands. Bi-Lo is to be absorbed into Coles
Supermarkets and the NSW Theo’s liquor brand will be
rationalised.

The three business units will be
dominated by a giant Everyday Needs Group (food, grog, petrol and Kmart),
employing almost 85% of the people and dwarfing the other two groups, Target and
Officeworks. There is $300m for “strategic
initiatives” including plans for more
stores and something about an enhanced loyalty program.

Coles
will invest $60 million on more people, trolleys and cleaner and brighter
stores (new fluoro tubes and more cleaners?). Fletcher seems to want to transform their culture into one team, with
shared vision, goals, and strategy, values and behaviours. However,
there is no mention of how Coles will undo their top-down totem pole
culture, hampered by internal politics and an aversion to risk
taking.

Other than a stated aspiration, there is
nothing in today’s presentation that might indicate any real cultural shift.
Unless he finds a way to make real change; accepted, driven and lived at all levels of
the company, it will remain a motherhood aspiration and will militate against
his effort to regain the crown of Oz retailing.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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