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Mitre 10 looks to Australia for new chief executive

Tuesday 9th July 2019

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Mitre 10 New Zealand's board has hired Australian auto retailing veteran Chris Wilesmith as its new chief executive. 

Wilesmith will join the country's biggest hardware chain in September, after a 13-year stint with ASX-listed Super Retail Group where he was most recently in charge of discount auto parts retailer, Super Cheap Auto. 

Chief financial officer Matthew Washington has been acting CEO since the board kicked off an international search to replace Neil Cowie after he departed in February.

"This is an exciting time for our business, with every retailer challenged to adapt to a world that is rapidly changing around us. Innovation, leadership and courage are required, and we see Chris as expertly placed to lead Mitre 10 through the exciting times ahead," chair Martin Dippie said in a statement. 

"Importantly, he will also be an excellent fit for our unique and special culture."

Cowie lifted annual sales by about 50 percent during his five years in charge, with sales hitting $1.5 billion in the June 2018 year across the group's 40 Mitre 10 and 41 Mitre 10 MEGA stores. Before he took over the reins, Mitre 10 generated sales of $944 million.

Government figures show inflation-adjusted retail sales of hardware, building and garden supplies rose to $8.02 billion in the March 2019 year, from $5.92 billion in the March 2014 year, a 35 percent increase. Including inflation, sales were up 42 percent, lagging behind Mitre 10's increase under Cowie.

Mitre 10's network compares to 62 Fletcher Building-owned Placemaker stores, 55 Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings stores, and 53 Carters outlets.

Wilesmith will finish up at Super Retail Group in August, having overseen the expansion of the auto unit to about A$1 billion of annual revenue in the 2018 financial year. 

Before Super Retail Group, Wilesmith was general manager at Toys 'R' Us and spent 13 years at Woolworths prior to that.

"What excites me is the Mitre 10 culture; its focus on team, community, and fascination with growing a global best practice organisation into the future for its suppliers, partners and customers to benefit from," he said.

(BusinessDesk)

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