Bunnings COO resigns after one year in top job with no explanation

Home Economy Bunnings COO resigns after one year in top job with no explanation
Bunnings COO resigns after one year in top job with no explanation

The sudden departure of a senior Bunnings boss has sparked a major reshuffle after he abruptly quit after just one year into the job.

Simon McDowell joined the hardware juggernaut in 2021 as chief operating officer, meaning he was second in charge behind managing director Mike Schneider.

Before taking on the role at the much-loved retailer, Mr McDowell worked at an executive level for a string of household name companies, including Coca-Cola, Sony and Coles.

However, no explanation has been given for his exit, which is understood to have taken place several months ago – a surprising development, considering he held such a high-level position at one of the country’s leading retailers for such a short period of time.

His exit has sparked a major reshuffle within Bunnings’ executive team, with Ryan Baker taking on the role of chief customer officer and Ben Camire now leading store operations across Australia and New Zealand, meaning the men essentially share the former COO role.

“We’re pleased to confirm Ryan Baker was appointed to the role of Chief Customer Officer a few months ago,” Bunnings managing director Mike Schneider said in a statement provided to news.com.au.

“Ryan has been with the Bunnings business for over 20 years and brings an enormous amount of experience and success as a retail leader into this role.”

Mr Baker started his career with Bunnings more than two decades ago in a Queensland warehouse and has since worked his way up the ranks in Bunnings and in retail operations across Australia.

During the past eight years, there have been at least three occasions when the COO role has not been part of the official structure, which is now the case once again in the wake of Mr McDowell’s departure.

His exit came just months after the former COO hit out at claims made by CHOICE that Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys appeared to be capturing the biometric data of their customers as part of a wider investigation into retailers’ use of facial recognition technology.

At the time, Mr McDowell issued a scathing statement, claiming Bunnings was “disappointed by Choice’s inaccurate characterisation of Bunnings’ use of facial recognition technology in selected stores”.

“This technology is used solely to keep team and customers safe and prevent unlawful activity in our stores, which is consistent with the Privacy Act,” he said, adding that in recent years, there had been an increase in the number of “challenging interactions” that teams have had to handle in stores.

“[And] this technology is an important tool in helping us to prevent repeat abuse and threatening behaviour towards our team and customers,” he said.

The executive shake-up comes after reports emerged just last month that Bunnings planned to cut up to 300 jobs in training, communications and support services.

In November, The Australian reported that a round of redundancies was forecast for its head office and national support centre, however, Bunnings later denied the reported figure.

News of the rumoured job cuts came amid a post-Covid review into its structure and support centre resourcing, with Bunnings also recently restructuring its communications and learning and development teams in a move towards digitising training, human resources and skills development programs.

However, the latest developments come during a golden period for the DIY giant, with Bunnings raking in more than $2 billion dollars in profit before tax last financial year.

The company, which is owned by Perth-based conglomerate Wesfarmers, employs 53,000 people across the country, with 1600 hundred people employed in the in its Melbourne head office.

News.com.au contacted Mr McDowell for comment.

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