The man who guided Farmers through its 100th anniversary, the launch of its phenomenally successful club card network and its new Auckland flagship, among other seismic changes, has been tragically killed in a car accident. Rod McDermott spent 25 years with Farmers and a decade as its CEO before stepping down at the end of 2016.
McDermott quietly stood down from his role as CEO in October last year. Farmers chief financial officer Michael Power said he was in search of the next challenge:
“Rod had been with Farmers for a total of 25 years and held the CEO role for the last 10 of these years. After this long period of service he has decided to seek new and different challenges.”
Fairfax has reported that McDermott passed away on March 22 in a head-on collision near Tauranga.
Among McDermott’s recent achievements at Farmers was the club card network, which is one of New Zealand’s most successful loyalty programmes. As of 2013, the network had more than 1.4 million members, and is now producing data used by the heritage retailer to personalise its digital communications to customers.
McDermott also fronted the launch of Farmers’ new metro-style Queen St flagship, which opened in November 2015 after a $5 million fit-out. The lavish store was a bold step for Farmers, which had closed an earlier Queen St store a year earlier.
“When you’re in the same street as European luxury brands and new overseas brands, you really need to put your best foot forward,” McDermott then said.
Greg Harford, Retail NZ’s general manager, public affairs, praised McDermott’s impact on the New Zealand retail industry: “Rod had a significant role in New Zealand retail and we are sad to hear of his tragic passing”.
The Retail Collective’s retail experience director, Lisa Donaldson, shared these memories of McDermott:
I worked at Farmers for 13 years, so it was impossible not to know Rod McDermott. There is no doubt Rod was a trader, but one that was extremely passionate and focused on one brand - Farmers.
This passion underpinned Rod’s determination and single minded strategic vision, and he was sometimes tough in his quest to achieve his desired outcome for the business. He was also kind and gentle with impeccable taste, a great sense of humor and an infectious laugh.
I am very grateful I had the opportunity to learn the fundamental principles of category management by watching Rod develop and conduct the merchandise strategy.