Metcash adds two retail veterans to board

Australian food and grocery wholesaler Metcash has added experienced consumer goods experts Peter Birtles and Wai Tang as non-executive directors of the company.

Birtles brings over 30 years’ experience in retail and consumer goods, having led Super Retail Group for the last 13 years as managing director and CEO up until his retirement in February.

He previously held the chief financial officer role at the group, as well as senior financial roles at health and beauty chain Boots in the UK and Australia.

This will be Birtles second non-executive director role, as he is currently on the board of GWA Group, an Australian company that distributes household consumer products.

Tang brings over 30 years experience in retail, and holds non-executive directorships at JB Hi-Fi, Vicinity and Ovato. The former chief executive of sleepwear brand Peter Alexander, Tang also previously held the managing director position at confectionery retailer Happy Lab and was general manager of business development for Pacific Brands.

The wholesaler announced last month that Fiona Balfour would not stand for re-election at the Annual General Meeting after nine years and Anne Brennan is stepping down over potential conflicts relating to her other directorships. Brennan is on the boards of Rabobank, Argo, Nufarm and Charter Hall.

The Australian reported that the conflicts are at Rabobank, which has moved into the Metcash banking syndicate, and at Charter Hall, which manages industrial property dealing with Metcash.

“We are delighted to have Peter and Wai join the Board,” Metcash chairman Rob Murray said.

“They bring a high level of relevant skills and experience and we look forward to their contributions. The Board and I warmly welcome them to Metcash.”

Last month Metcash, which owns IGA, Mitre 10, Cellarbrations, The Bottle-O and Home Timber & Hardware, reported a 3.0 per cent drop in underlying profit for the full-year to $210.3 million, as food earnings took a hit.

Group revenue climbed 1.8 per cent to $12.66 billion but earnings fell 1.4 per cent to $330 million as growth in liquor and hardware struggled to offset a 3.0 per cent drop in grocery earnings.

In the last five years, Metcash’s food division has faced significant headwinds, most notably the intense competition from local rivals Woolworths and Coles, and international entrant Aldi.

Birtles and Tang will take up the roles on August 1.

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