Hardware chain Mitre 10 has appointed Australian retail executive Chris Wilesmith as its new chief executive.
Wilesmith will start with Mitre 10 in early September after spending seven years as managing director of auto retailing at ASX-listed Super Retail Group. His exact start date is still being negotiated.
READ MORE: • Mitre 10 chief executive Neil Cowie steps down
Wilesmith, a keen mountaineer and cyclist, will relocate to New Zealand with his family to take up the role.
Mitre 10 chairman Martin Dippie said he was thrilled with the appointment, and Wilesmith would lead the company through its next stage of growth.
"Chris is a highly accomplished retail leader, having spent more than 30 years in specialty, big-box and omni-channel retail. This is an exciting time for our business, with every retailer challenged to adapt to a world that is rapidly changing around us," Dippie said.
"Innovation, leadership and courage are required, and we see Chris as expertly placed to lead Mitre 10 through the exciting times ahead."
Wilesmith has held roles with supermarket giant Woolworths, electronics retailer Dick Smith and at present Super Cheap Auto, an automotive retail chain owned by Super Retail Group, where he leads Australia and New Zealand operations.
Before Super Retail Group, Wilesmith was general manager of Toys 'R' Us and Big W. He spent 13 years at Woolworths, holding senior management roles in merchandise.
"It is a real honour to be offered the opportunity to join a team that has built an iconic brand that means so much to New Zealanders," Wilesmith said.
"What excites me is the Mitre 10 culture; its focus on team, community, and fascination with growing a global best practice organisation into the future for its suppliers, partners and customers to benefit from."
Former Mitre 10 chief executive Neil Cowie left the company in February after five years in the role. The board appointed executive recruitment firm Egon Zhender to conduct an international search for a replacement shortly after.
Mitre 10 is one of New Zealand's fastest-growing trade merchants. It is a co-operative with 83 stores spread across the country and employs 5000 staff.
Cowie lifted annual sales by about 50 percent during his five years in charge, with sales hitting $1.5 billion in the June 2018 year across the group's 40 Mitre 10 and 41 Mitre 10 MEGA stores. Before he took over the reins, Mitre 10 generated sales of $944 million.
Government figures show inflation-adjusted retail sales of hardware, building and garden supplies rose to $8.02 billion in the March 2019 year, from $5.92 billion in the March 2014 year, a 35 percent increase. Including inflation, sales were up 42 percent, lagging behind Mitre 10's increase under Cowie.
Mitre 10's network compares to 62 Fletcher Building-owned Placemaker stores, 55 Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings stores, and 53 Carters outlets.
Wilesmith will finish up at Super Retail Group in August, having overseen the expansion of the auto unit to about A$1 billion of annual revenue in the 2018 financial year.
With reporting by BusinessDesk