Woolworths shuffles its leadership as it looks beyond supermarkets

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She will also take stewardship of the company’s partnership with food service company PFD if Woolworths’ $500 million acquisition of the company gains regulatory approval.

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Ms Peters has been instrumental in helping Woolworths navigate the COVID-19 crisis, and chief executive Brad Banducci said her new placing would be critical to the future of the retailer.

Additionally, the supermarket’s managing director of group portfolio Colin Storrie will move into a new role as head of new business and partnerships, effectively overseeing the retailer’s merger and acquisition strategy. Woolworths shares were down 0.3 per cent to $37.37 at midday.

These moves are reflective of Woolworths’ broader ecosystem strategy, which has been touted by the retailer in recent years as a long-term plan to transform the supermarket giant into a broader “food and everyday needs” business.

Prior to the coronavirus, the $47 billion company had made moves to further this strategy, including the divestment of failed hardware chain Masters, the sale of its petrol station division, and the now-delayed demerger of its hotels and drinks division Endeavour.

Woolworths has also been building out its digital platforms, establishing its Cartology media business last year, rebranding its rewards platform and investing in online advertising company Longtail UX.

However, Mr Banducci said on Tuesday the COVID-19 crisis had “accelerated many of our plans to deliver on our ecosystem strategy”, with the company forking out $500 million for PFD last month and also making a string of smaller investments in startup companies through its W23 arm.

When the PFD acquisition was announced, Mr Banducci rejected claims Woolworths was turning into a conglomerate, saying the retailer was not looking to acquire businesses just for the sake of it.

“We’re not in the business of just trying to put things together for size’s sake,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a conglomerate, it really is trying to build an ecosystem of businesses that support each other.”

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Woolworths shareholder and Pengana Capital portfolio manager Anton Du Preez agreed with the chief executive, saying the company’s expanding investments would provide the supermarket with unparalleled insight into emerging trends.

“All these satellite businesses make a lot of sense because they feed into the ecosystem of the food business,” he said. “It also gives Woolworths insight into new businesses and new business models.”

“Anyone can read a trend report from McKinsey’s or wherever, but to have a detailed understanding [is different].”

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Dominic Powell writes about the retail industry for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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