New Woolworths boss Steve Johnson has said the retail and distribution company, famed for its high street stores, must continue to improve its management of in-store inventory. Major improvements to the supply chain and its related IT have been driven by the CIO and management team at Woolworths, but in an interview, Johnson indicated more improvements are to come.

Johnson, who took over as chief executive on Monday 1 September, moved to Woolworths from being chief executive at Focus DIY. In an interview with the Independent newspaper he said his priorities were to “meet staff and get on with running the business” and he highlighted “improving its in-store availability. Johnson said he would give a detailed view of his strategy for the company when it releases its interim results on 17 September, but told the newspaper, “I think there are nuggets at the heart of the business and an opportunity to turn this around.”

In recent years Woolworths has become a byword for empty shelves and poor stock control, but from 2007 onwards the company has focused aggressively on improving its management of stock and ensuring shop shelves are full. In 2007, Tony Godwin, IT director at Woolworths carried out improvements to the “sophistication of the IT systems” at Woolworths with a focus on improving the supply chain. Godwin told CIO that they were adding additional server capacity and improving customer fulfillment abilities. This year Woolworths has integrated the SAP SCM software and seen improvements in productivity at its warehouse operations.

Woolworths returned to profitability last year and said its supply chain improvements were partly responsible. Recently the company has rebuffed an approach from Bauger, the Icelandic retail chain that owns the Iceland frozen food stores. Woolworths said the acquisition offer was “unacceptable”. Woolworths will reach its centenary next year and since 2001 has been listed on the London Stock Exchange after a split from the B&Q owning Kingfisher retail group.

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