A David Jones spokesperson confirmed to Fairfax Media on Tuesday that long-serving head of merchandise Donna Player and the retailer’s group executive of marketing, financial services and customer insights David Robinson had stepped down.
Player, considered one of the most powerful women in fashion retail, has more than 30 years experience after carving out a name for herself with Grace Bros, Katies and Big W.
She was appointed group executive of merchandise for David Jones in 2012 under former chief Paul Zahra, when she took over two additional group merchandise portfolios.
Since then, her remit had included everything from toasters to T-shirts. She was responsible for what brands of apparel, footwear, accessories, home and food merchandise were sold instore and online for the now Woolworths-owned retailer. She was also tasked with transitioning a number of high-street Woolworths brands onto the shop floor including Studio W and RE: Denim last year, a departure for Australia’s oldest luxury department store.
Last week, Player was a front-row fixture at Fashion Week Australia in Sydney. The industry event showed resort collections that, for the first time in its 21 years history, aligned with local and international buying calendars.
Player will be replaced immediately by veteran of the South African chain, David Collins. Collins joins David Jones after 25 years in senior merchandise and commercial retail roles. He previously worked across women’s, men’s and children’s fashion as well as homewares and accessories.
Robinson had been with the retailer for more than 18 years, most recently as the chief marketing officer.
Ahead of this year’s autumn-winter 2016 fashion launch, Robinson defended the flashy bi-annual events which showcase upcoming trends by designers like TOME, Zimmermann, Carla Zampatti and Dion Lee via the department store’s ambassadors Jessica Gomes, Jesinta Campbell and Montana Cox.
“Australian designer fashion is one of our most key segments online and it makes up a significant amount of business for us,” he said in February.
Robinson had been keen to expand the department store’s reach using a variety of platforms including social media channels and other publishing ventures.
Earlier this month, Harper’s Bazaar fashion director Thelma McQuillan was announced as the new fashion director of the store’s revamped customer magazine and app that will launch in August.
A new executive position focused solely on the brand’s online presence and e-store was also announced on Tuesday. The new group executive, digital will report to chief John Dixon and is expected to be appointed soon.
These latest management changes follow Zahra resigning soon after Woolworths’ $2.2 billion takeover in 2014. Dixon, the former Marks & Spencer executive lured to Australia to revitalise David Jones, took over from former chief Ian Nairn in January.
In the most recent results, David Jones posted the best sales growth figures in 15 years citing the introduction of new private labels to Australian stores. Earnings, however, fell.
Of the latest changes, Dixon thanked Player and Robinson for their “strong contribution to the business”.
“Our business is undergoing a significant transformation and the changes announced today will deliver a world-class leadership team,” he said via a statement. “The creation of two new executive roles, combined with the introduction of new skills and experience, reflects key areas of strategic focus and will extend our capabilities during this exciting phase of the business’ development.”
David Johns is owned by Woolworths Holdings, not the Australian-listed Woolworths Limited.