The chairman of the Myer Group, Bill Wavish, is an executive with a special talent for self-publication and today The Australian has swallowed his credentials as a retailer without subjecting them to any real test. The front page story — which ran along with a Glenn Milne column — reports:
The chairman of the Myer Group, Bill Wavish, has written to Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens and Wayne Swan protesting that the run of interest rate increases is dividing the nation and damaging the economy.
Mr Wavish said the rate rises were “hollowing out” the economy, with the resource sector steaming ahead while manufacturing and traded services suffer.
Wavish is executive chairman of Myer but came to retailing very late in his career. He was actually a finance executive for Sir Ron Brierley and then at Chase Corporation, that stunning Kiwi failure of the 1980s, before joining Woolworths as finance director. He was then promoted to the most important management job, Director of Supermarkets, but quit in April 2003 when it became apparent he wasn’t suited to the role. Woolies shares were $12.43 the day he left in 2003, they are now around $30, a sign the company has thrived without him.
There’s also a bit of self interest involved: Myer management has shares in the private equity buyout, the success of which could be jeopardised by a retail slowdown. An acknowledgement of that would have been handy.
And Wavish has form with the media. Who can forget the pre-fabricated “exclusive” interview he gave to the Fin Review back in 2006?
As to his claims, they’re rubbish. There is no “hollowing out” of the Australian economy — growth in the states is converging, December quarter GDP figures confirmed that. In fact, closer analysis by Goldman Sachs JBWere shows that retail sales in Queensland are trending downwards and the growth rate in WA has slowed from a peak of 14% a year ago to just 2% year on year in March.
And Merrill Lynch produced figures that further undermined Wavish’s case: “Food retailing has slowed over summer, with year-ended sales growth easing to 5.9% through to February. Department store sales picked up 1.7% in January and 0.1% in February, to be 7.6% higher through the year.”
Don’t Wavish’s figures show that? Or is David Jones getting all that growth?