Glenda Korporaal meets the Scot who works for South Africans who wants to bring a touch of Italy to Aus­tralia’s iconic depart­ment store. Now that’s global.

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up - Pho­to­graph by: JU­LIAN KINGMA

Ian Moir ar­rives at his of­fice at David Jones over­look­ing Syd­ney’s Hyde Park wear­ing an open-neck shirt, jeans and a de­signer stub­ble. His blond wood of­fice desk is stacked with neat piles of pa­pers, over­looked by black-and-white photos of fash­ion­able women in­clud­ing Au­drey Hep­burn.

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of Wool­worths, the South African re­tail chain, has just flown in from a fam­ily hol­i­day in Greece – two weeks in a party of 10, in­clud­ing his four kids and their boyfriends. Now it’s back to work. He’ll be in Aus­tralia for three packed weeks and the pres­sure is on.

Last night, af­ter a day speak­ing at a busi­ness lunch, at­tend­ing meet­ings and din­ing with David Jones’ sup­pli­ers, the jet­lag kicked in. At 2am, Moir is up and at it, dash­ing off emails to his team in South Africa.

Soon there will be en­gage­ments with Wool­worths' other Aus­tralian oper­a­tions – Coun­try Road and Witch­ery.

“My big­gest fear,” says Moir, “is that if I wasn’t do­ing this I would get bored.”

Not much chance of that. At 56, Moir over­sees 500 stores em­ploy­ing more than 30,000 peo­ple in Aus­tralia, South Africa and 11 other coun­tries in Africa. He lives on two con­ti­nents in three cities, trav­el­ling be­tween Wool­worths' head­quar­ters in Capetown, David Jones’ head­quar­ters in Syd­ney and Coun­try Road head­quar­ters in Mel­bourne, where his fam­ily is lo­cated.

This month he cel­e­brates the first an­niver­sary of Wool­worths' $2.3 bil­lion takeover of David Jones. It’s a year, too, since Wool­worths bought out Mel­bourne busi­ness­man Solly Lew to take com­plete con­trol of Coun­try Road. It’s a good mo­ment for Moir, the man who saved Coun­try Road when he was its CEO, with the news that David Jones is also fi­nally turn­ing around. Sales for the six months to the end of June moved into dou­ble-digit fig­ures with more in­for­ma­tion to come next week when Wool­worths re­leases its fi­nan­cial re­sults from South Africa.

Moir has much rest­ing on the re­vival of the chain: its im­age had been bat­tered by changes at the top when Moir con­vinced his board to bid for it last year. He knew the lo­cal scene well, hav­ing been CEO of Coun­try Road for 12 years be­fore he was of­fered the Wool­worths’ job in 2010. CEO Si­mon Sus­man was step­ping back af­ter 10 years to be­come chair­man and hand­picked Moir as his suc­ces­sor. For Moir the of­fer to run Wool­worths, founded in 1931 and with strong links to Bri­tish re­tailer Marks & Spencer, was one he couldn’t refuse, although it meant leav­ing his wife and four daugh­ters in Aus­tralia.

“It’s not with­out its dif­fi­cul­ties,” he ad­mits. “It in­volves a lot of travel and a lot of move­ment for me and my fam­ily but we are man­ag­ing it. Some­times it can be a bit un­set­tling but we have been do­ing it for a long time now and it works.”

An ac­coun­tant, who got into re­tail “by mis­take” when he be­gan work­ing in the in­ter­na­tional wool busi­ness, Moir says re­tail is very much a global ex­er­cise. In South Africa, Wool­worths (which has noth­ing to do with the Aus­tralian su­per­mar­ket chain) sells a range of prod­ucts from food, cloth­ing, beauty prod­ucts, home­wares to fi­nan­cial ser­vices. Moir says the group’s up­mar­ket cus­tomers in South Africa and Aus­tralia are part of a global world of con­sumers with sim­i­lar as­pi­ra­tions, who are more con­nected than ever with in­ter­na­tional fash­ion trends.

“What peo­ple are ex­pect­ing these days in terms of fash­ion – whether it is food or cloth­ing – is very in­ter­na­tional, very global,” he says. “Ev­ery­body is look­ing at the same im­ages – of sil­hou­ette and print and colour. Un­less you have a trend in the store that a cus­tomer is see­ing online, you are not go­ing to be suc­cess­ful. The things that sell well in Mel­bourne will be the same things that sell well in Capetown.”

Proof comes in the strat­egy he has pur­sued: since tak­ing over as CEO of Wool­worths, Moir has in­tro­duced Coun­try Road brands, in­clud­ing Trenery, Witch­ery and Mimco, to the South African stores. He is do­ing the same here, with an ex­pan­sion of Coun­try Road brands into David Jones, and plans to bring in some brands from South Africa as well as to de­velop pri­vate la­bel David Jones prod­ucts to sell in both coun­tries.

Then there’s online. He is a big fan of Sel­fridges depart­ment stores in Bri­tain and ad­mires how the John Lewis chain has dra­mat­i­cally lifted online sales to more than 30 per cent of its busi­ness. In the past year, David Jones has ex­panded online sales from one per cent to three per cent of turnover and Moir wants to get to 10 per cent in the next few years. THE straight-talk­ing Moir, who comes from Dun­fermline, near Ed­in­burgh, likes to play down his ac­count­ing back­ground.

“You spend four years get­ting your ac­count­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions and the next 30 years deny­ing it,” he jokes. The re­tail busi­ness, he ar­gues, is not com­pli­cated. “Re­tail is not brain surgery. It’s sim­ple stuff. Sim­ple dis­ci­plines.”

The dis­ci­plines re­quire a foren­sic fo­cus on de­tail, par­tic­u­larly about the cus­tomer: the goal is to get more and more in­for­ma­tion on cus­tomers, the more in­for­ma­tion the bet­ter. When Moir and his team took over David Jones they were hor­ri­fied by how lit­tle the com­pany knew about its cus­tomers. The store used to have its own credit card but, un­der for­mer CEO Mark McInnes, it pitched Amer­i­can Ex­press cards to its

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