Lew scores board pick as Myer sales soar

Solomon Lew's pick for a board seat at department store Myer doesn't see the retailer being sold off, despite the billionaire seizing an ever-growing stake in the business.

Myer's former managing director, Terry McCartney, will return to the company with the backing of Mr Lew's Premier Investments after the board declined to support his appointment.

The move came as the resurgent retailer declared its best start to the financial year on record, continuing its sales momentum since COVID-19 lockdowns ended.

Chief executive John King told the company's annual general meeting on Thursday that sales for the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year were up 18.9 per cent on the same period in 2020, before the start of the pandemic.

Compared with the lockdown-affected first quarter of 2021/22, sales were up 52.8 per cent.

Mr Lew, whose Premier Investments owns nearly 23 per cent of Myer shares, secured a board seat for Mr McCartney with more than 61 per cent of shareholder votes.

The Myer board had declined to support Mr McCartney's bid, highlighting to shareholders a series of potential conflicts of interests due to his role as a Premier director.

Mr Lew has been rapidly increasing his stake in the retailer ahead of what many market-watchers expect will be an eventual bid for control.

But when asked at the meeting if he thought Myer should be taken over, Mr McCartney said he didn't expect the business to be sold.

"I don't see it disappearing ... I don't see it being sold off, I see it as a business that has found its legs again and hopefully I can add some value to that," he told shareholders.

Chairwoman JoAnne Stephenson narrowly escaped being ousted from her position, securing 56 per cent support for her reappointment.

The company's previous chairman, Garry Hounsell, resigned hours before the company's 2020 annual meeting after a long-standing campaign by Mr Lew.

Earlier this year, Myer declared its best second-half results in almost a decade, delivering its first final dividend since 2017.

Sales were up 12.5 per cent in the 2022 financial year to nearly $3 billion, including online purchases of $723 million - up 34 per cent and accounting for nearly one-quarter of sales.

Myer declared a net profit of $49 million, up 5.7 per cent on the previous year, while debt was down.

Mr King said Myer was targeting $1 billion in online sales and the company was reaping the benefits of its combination of brick-and-mortar stores and web traffic.

He lashed purely online retailers such as Adore Beauty, Kogan and Catch, saying "they don't make money, all they talk about is top line".

"You don't get rich selling $10 notes for $5 - what we will do is focus on multi-channel growth and a profitable business," Mr King said.

Myer is due to next year open a 40,000sq m national distribution centre at Ravenhall, Victoria, featuring robotic technology to streamline deliveries.

At the same time, Myer has been scaling back its traditional stores, cutting 119,000sq m or about 11 per cent of its total floor space since the first half of the 2018 financial year.

Mr King said the company was targeting smaller stores that operated as a showroom for in-store and online purchases.

At market close, Myer shares were up 4.2 per cent to $0.625.

The company's share price has more than doubled since mid-June, although since 2013 it has shed about 80 per cent of its value.