By Claire Reilly

The heads of department store group Myer have used the company’s annual report to call for retail reform in Australia, saying the local sector needs to become more competitive in the global retail market.

The Myer annual report, released on Friday, included a joint report from Myer chairman Paul McClintock and CEO and managing director Bernie Brookes. In it, the two company directors outlined Myer’s strong performance amidst difficult conditions over the past year; however, they outlined the need for retail reform to ensure the industry’s ongoing viability.

“The consumer environment continues to be challenging, despite Australia being relatively well positioned compared to Europe and the United States,” the joint report read. “The sector would benefit from reform to help drive productivity and become more competitive in a global marketplace.

“Retail continues to be the biggest private employment sector in the country. All Australian retailers are being impacted by rising employment costs, escalating utilities costs and a GST loophole providing an unfair advantage to foreign retailers.”

According to the report, Myer is adapting to the new world order of retail with a five point plan to build on the company’s strengths and to address growing areas of the market. These five points include goals to “Improve customer service; Enhance our merchandise offer; Strengthen our loyalty offer; Build a leading omni-channel offer; [and] Optimise our store network”.

The company also has plans to open a number of new stores across Australia in the coming years, following openings in Fountain Gate (Victoria), Townsville (Queensland) and Shellharbour (New South Wales) over the past year. The new stores are scheduled to open in Mt Gravatt (Queensland) and Joondalup (Western Australia) in 2015; Woden (ACT), Tuggerah and Green Hills (New South Wales) in 2016; and Darwin (Northern Territory), Coomera (Queensland) and Plenty Valley (Victoria) in 2017.

Looking forward, McClintock and Brookes were largely positive about the future of Myer.

“We see these as exciting times as the industry faces challenges and we adapt our business to the changing structure of retail,” the joint report read. “However, we remain cautious about the year ahead given the challenges of the economic outlook and consumer confidence.

“We have a robust operational five-point plan in place and we consistently look for opportunities to drive the long-term sustainability of the Myer business.

“We are confident that our strategy remains the right one to grow the business and maximise shareholder returns. As we move into FY2015, we expect to benefit from improved operating leverage and stronger fundamentals as a result of the completion of major refurbishments, the online business becoming profitable, and the ongoing optimisation of our store network.”