By Chris Nicholls

GfK’s senior retail account director, Neil Papenhausen, has left the company after 14 years, moving to Harvey Norman to become its new business analyst.

Papenhausen will start his new job on 1 July and will help Harvey Norman with its new strategic planning direction through forecasting and sales analysis, according to Harvey Norman computer and communications general manager, Luke Naish.

“It’s a bit of a change from a purely organic retail approach. We want to get the best of both worlds. We’ve always had very strong store representation through our franchise model [and] that will never change, but we also just want to use a more scientific approach to enhance that a bit more,” said Naish.

“We’re really happy. Neil’s a good person, he’s fantastic with his relationships. He’s got a wealth of knowledge – he’s been with GfK for 14 years – he builds relationships easily, and from a cultural fit, we know it’s a really good fit.”

Papenhausen was the longest serving member of staff in the GfK Australia team, joining as national field manager at a time when GfK still needed people in the field for manual audits.

After a short time in that role, electronic data gathering meant Papenhausen became a retail client service manager, a role he expanded as his responsibilities increased.

GfK managing director, Gary Lamb, said Papenhausen’s time at GfK was less a career, more “a love affair”.

“Essentially, he spent that thick end of 15 years working with pretty much every retailer of durable goods in Australia and New Zealand, across all of the categories that we’ve measured.

“He built up, as you can tell by the reaction we’ve from the news that he’s leaving, fantastic relationships. [He has] such an incredible level of respect,” said Lamb.

Lamb said Papenhausen’s move meant every team member below him would be promoted, with his successor, Eshani De Silva, described by Lamb as “an absolute star”.

De Silva has been with the company for five years and has been in Papenhausen’s team for the last year-and-a-half.

New staff will be introduced to the team at the lower level to cover the promotions, said Lamb.