MEDIA STATEMENT

1 February 2018


BETTS REFOCUSES ON FLAGSHIP BETTS STORES & BURGEONING ONLINE TRADE



Leading Footwear chain Betts Group today announced sweeping changes to focus on and strengthen its Betts branded stores Australia wide, along with increasing online and wholesale opportunities.


Betts Chairman and CEO Danny Breckler said the company would build on its proud 125-year history with changes to its product offering designed to position Betts for future and ongoing growth.


“These changes are about better aligning with the way our customers are shopping,” Mr Breckler said. “Most of our customers continue to shop in-store and while that experience is paramount we will also ensure that we cater successfully to an increasing percentage who like to shop online.


“Last year our online business grew by more than 75 per cent and tracking so far this year has it increasing by nearly 85 per cent and that, along with new wholesale opportunities is something we can’t ignore.”


He said that in making changes, Betts had worked hard to find the best possible balance between vital business positioning and ongoing employment for the majority of staff.


Changes to take effect in the next few weeks include:

• Continued growth and development of the flagship Betts branded stores along with our online business;

• Finalisation of a deal with Australia’s Munro Footwear Group to acquire a number of stores and provide ongoing employment for staff members in those stores; and

• Discontinuing Betts kids stores with some staff transferring to Betts stores.


Staff at all affected stores were briefed on changes today and Betts guaranteed commitment to customers in terms of normal return, exchange and refund policies and honouring of all gift cards and vouchers within Betts stores.


“Change is not easy but like all businesses we must position the business best for the long term and adapt to the various ways in which our customers shop,” Mr Breckler said.


“We are very pleased to be working with the Munro Footwear Group, another Australian family-owned company with strong values, to take over a large proportion of our Airflex stores along with a number of Betts stores and to offer employment to all staff in those stores. The stores will all be re-branded to existing Munro brands”


Betts Group would retain the three best performing Airflex stores, one each in WA, SA and Victoria, with the number of stores to be acquired by Munro to be finalised in coming weeks. Some Airflex stores would convert to the Betts flagship and a small number would close.


Mr Breckler said that one of the most challenging changes was to discontinue Betts Kids, but that a decision had been made to minimise disruption to families and to keep stores open over the current back to school period.


“For Betts it’s the end of an era in helping families across Australia prepare their children for school with a trip to our store to try on new school shoes,” he said. “It’s a memory that most of us probably have and it’s not without some nostalgia that it’s about to end.


“We know that this tradition has been important for generations of some families and we’re going to invite our customers to help mark that by sharing some of their memories on our website.”


Mr Breckler said that while as many staff as possible would transfer from Betts Kids and Airflex to Betts stores, not everyone would stay.


“While exact numbers are not yet finalised, we expected that around 168 of our people will not be able to be reemployed and that’s hard,” he said.


“It’s easy to lay out the business case and point to where our business should grow because that’s what customer choice dictates, but saying goodbye to some of our staff, who have helped us along the way was never going to be easy, and it’s not.


“Of equal importance has been the loyal support of our customers over many years and we hope they will continue to shop in our Betts stores, or find us online if that’s how they choose to shop”.


Betts Group will work with affected staff on various options including redundancy or referrals and recommendations to professional work placement agencies specialising in the retail sector.


Mr Breckler highlighted Betts Group’s continued strength and plans to increase its digital presence and wholesale business saying that changes, while cementing company confidence and optimism for the future, were also tempered by nostalgia and concern for affected staff.