Staff are the new front in the retail war between Myer and David Jones as the two chains prepare for life headquartered in the same city.
David Jones’ decision to pull up stumps in Sydney after 179 years and relocate to Myer’s hometown of Melbourne, has sparked a round of poaching.
Myer earnings report
Retailer Myer is on track to deliver full-year profit growth, for the first time since 2010.
According to Myer insiders, DJs has started to raid Myer’s Docklands headquarters. The first to go is Chris Wilson, general manager of menswear at Myer.
Mr Wilson has also headed Myer’s entertainment division and worked as a buyer and merchandise planning manager in his 10 years with the retail giant.
“We were told Chris was on leave at meeting last week, but not given a reason why,” said the Myer insider.
Other staff confirmed that Mr Wilson was on “gardening leave”, having accepted a position at rival DJs. “He has definitely gone across. He left last week to go to DJs. They are headhunting a lot of Myer people ahead of the move to Melbourne.”
Myer and David Jones both politely declined to comment.
A second Myer employee, buyer Ben Hall, is also believed to have defected to David Jones.
Myer chief Richard Umbers faces a battle to keep staff. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Fairfax Media was told a standard non-compete term at Myer ranged between three and six months, depending on seniority.
In August last year South African retail giant Woolworths Holdings, which now owns David Jones and Country Road in Australia, announced the relocation and declared that Melbourne was the “fashion capital of Australia”.
The company also pointed out that Melbourne’s real estate costs are cheaper, as part of its plan to move the Australian headquarters to inner-suburban Richmond.
It was a dramatic decision for the retailer. David Jones was founded by a Welsh immigrant of the same name on the corner of George and Barrack streets in Sydney 1838. Mr Jones said he wanted to sell “the best and most exclusive goods” and to carry “stock that embraces the everyday wants of mankind at large”.
Woolworths Holdings will invest $240 million in Victoria to build the new Richmond headquarters and a distribution centre in Melbourne’s west. After the relocation, there will be an estimated 1300 David Jones and Country Road employees at the Richmond HQ. The company said it would assist all staff who wished to relocate.
At the time of the announcement, Woolworths chief executive Ian Moir said it was a “no-brainer” to consolidate in Melbourne.
“Melbourne really is the fashion centre, the fashion capital of Australia, it’s the retail centre of Australia,” Mr Moir said.
Woolworths Holdings bought David Jones and Country Road for more than $2 billion in 2014. Myer opened on Melbourne’s Bourke Street in 1911, and its headquarters is on Collins Street in Docklands.