Woolworths gets rid of CEO position in South Africa as current head steps down from position

SOUTH AFRICA – Retail giant Woolworths has reviewed its leadership structure for its South African operations and will not retain the CEO role as it seeks to streamline its operating model.

Under the current model, the group has three Chief Executive roles – for Country Road, David Jones and Woolworths South Africa (WSA) – operating under Group Chief executive Roy Bagattini.

The recent move follows the announcement of retirement of WSA’s current head and executive director of Woolworths Holding Limited, Ms Zyda Rylands, who has decided to pursue early retirement and consequently step down from these broader roles with effect from 30 September 2021.

However, at the request of the Board, Ms Rylands has agreed to defer her planned early retirement and remain with the group through to 2024.

“For the remainder of her tenure, she will focus her energies and her passion on leading the WSA Foods business, which she has been instrumental in growing and positioning as an industry-leading, food retailer,” the group said in a statement.

Ms Rylands has been at the helm of SA operations since September 2015. Before then, she had occupied various positions within the group over 20 years.

“The Board extends its appreciation to Ms Rylands for deferring her early retirement and also, especially for her significant contribution to the WHL Board in her capacity as an executive director since 2006 and as the WSA CEO over the past six years,” indicated the group.

In a trading statement for the year ending 27 June, Woolworths reported that its group sales increased by 9.7% compared to a year earlier, and by 5.9% in constant currency terms.

During the period under review, the Woolworths Food business grew both market share and volumes despite the high base set in the prior year driven by stockpiling ahead of the first lockdown.

Sales for the year grew by 6.9%, and by 5.7% in comparable stores, on a price movement of 5.2% and underlying product inflation of 4.9%.

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Woolworths revealed that while there has been some reversion in customer shopping behaviour, frozen foods and groceries continue to deliver strong growth.

Meanwhile, online sales under the segment grew by 117.9% over the current year, contributing 2.3% to its South African Food sales.

This was further supported by the expanded Click-and-Collect offering and the rollout of its on-demand delivery service, Woolies Dash.

Total revenue for the current year increased by 3.5% and by 4.2% in comparable stores, while sales in the second half of the current year grew by 24.1% on last year’s non-comparable base.

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