Friday, September 17, 2010

The Warehouse still interested in Australian Expansion

In a Share Investor Q & A out 20 Sept 2010, on Ian Morrice, CEO of The Warehouse Group Ltd [WHS.NZX], Ian gives some very interesting answers to my questions to him. We cover aspects of his business life, retailing in general and the Warehouse Group specifically and some other topics thus far not broached by other interviewers.

One answer that really interested me was the answer to the following question on the Australian retail market and any possible move back there:

"SI - Ryman Healthcare Ltd [RYM.NZX] has recently announced a move into the Australian market while Telecom NZ [TEL.NZX] is selling up their Australian assets. Do you you see the possibility of The Warehouse going back to that market given the right opportunity and a more appropriate execution of an expansion there?

IM - We would consider it but not through taking the Red Sheds model to Australia.

SI - What mistakes were made when the company entered the Australian market in 2000 and how would you do things differently if you entered that market?

IM - Any future move into Australia would fully consider the competitive environment and the availability of the appropriate footprint in the right locations".

Ian's predecessor, Greg Muir, gained a foothold into Australia in August 2000, by acquiring the Clint's Crazy Bargains/Silly Solly's chain of 115 discount variety stores and ended up losing the thick end of $200 million of shareholders money when Ian bailed out in 2005.

Not Ian's fault of course and it looks like any further entry into Australia would be a bit more considered and planned rather than the rush of blood to the head that Greg Muir - former director at Hanover Group and current director at Pumpkin Patch Ltd [PPL.NZX] - had when he decided to plunk down north of $100 million to buy the aforementioned chain.

I was very excited about the move into OZ back in 2000 but upon reflection and 10 years more experience in the stockmarket I now realise I had my head firmly in a place that never sees the sun in terms of the planning of the Australian expansion. I still believe that a more considered and planned approach to expansion of the company in Australia would be a wise move on Ian's part.


Disclosure: I own WHS shares in the Share Investor Portfolio

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