Cunnold departs after Dick Smith consolidation

Cunnold departs after Dick Smith consolidation

Dick Smith Electronics has phased out its New Zealand country manager role after parent company Woolworths consolidated the local support office and cut staff.

Sydney-based general manager Debra Singh is now in charge of the company’s operations in Australia, New Zealand and India.

Woolworths spokesperson Luke Schepen says its support office in Auckland will be maintained and sales and support roles will remain. Singh was unavailable for comment.

As a result of the restructure, former country manager James Cunnold left the retailer in May after holding the country manager role for just over a year. He had been with the company since 2004 and was previously national merchandise manager.

Cunnold is set to join Foodstuffs Auckland, the company that operates the New World, Pak n’ Save and Four Square supermarkets, in September. He would not disclose his new role as it had not been announced internally.

He says this is a return to his fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) roots, as he began working at Woolworths in 1999 as a category manager.

He says it was “not a great surprise” that Dick Smith dissolved the local country manager role.

“When operational decisions are being made from Australia, you don’t need a head in New Zealand. The decision was made to restructure in February last year so I did see it coming.”

He adds the Dick Smith operations headcount, which was at 90 staff in Auckland, is down to approximately 40.

Woolworths CEO Michael Luscombe says the ANZ consumer electronics division had suffered a loss and the centralisation was part of its strategy to return to profit.

Total sales for the New Zealand consumer electronics (CE) division fell 5.8 percent for the year and 7.6 percent for the fourth quarter.

Total consumer electronics sales for Australia and New Zealand grew 3.4 percent on the previous year, with comparable store sales down 0.9 percent.

Trans-Tasman CE sales for the full year totalled A$1.5 billion.

“What we’re seeing in the stores that we’ve refurbished and re-formatted [with the new layout] gives us heart that we’re on the right track. In the first half we had a fantastic profit result. The world changed at Christmas 2009 and we had to make changes.”

He adds that the company is “not happy” that it ended up with a slight loss for the 2010 financial year.

“We’re now trading profitably again within Dick Smith, so we’re comfortable and we’re going to continue on with where we’re going.”

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