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Retail sales are slowly improving - Premier Investments
03
Dec '11
The 2011 financial year of Premier Investments Limited proved to be an extraordinary year which presented very significant challenges to all retail related businesses in Australia.

The combination of extreme volatility in the international financial and equity markets together with domestic issues associated with interest rates, other cost of living increases, employment security and the development of the carbon tax all contributed to a pervasive sense of uncertainty on the part of consumers.

This uncertainty translated to a continuation of very low levels of consumer confidence.

These challenges were then compounded by the natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand.

Cycles – good times and bad times – are an inevitable part of retail life.

It is our business to manage according to the times.

That said, the sustained period of low consumer confidence, the disconnect between the cyclical reality retailers face and rising input costs, overlaid by the structural changes taking place in retail will all serve to distinguish the very good retailers from the rest.

Premier has the experience, strength of management and financial capacity to never be a part of 'the rest'.

At the Premier Board level the key themes in 2011 were how to ensure that our core objectives of strong investment returns and long term wealth creation could be maintained and strengthened; how to position Premier to leverage its assets as the cycle turns; and how to deliver organic growth and also ensure that the financial capacity exists to substantially grow our business when the right opportunities are identified.

Your Directors believe that the actions we have taken in 2011 will achieve these objectives.

Premier's fully owned subsidiary, Just Group, Australasia's largest specialty retail business, is a better and stronger business today with the platform now in place to improve both financial and operating performance in both the short and long term.

In summary, and I will further elaborate on some of these points, Premier has delivered the following in 2011:
• The recruitment of one of Australia's most successful and talented CEOs, Mark McInnes, to lead Just Group and with an additional mandate to grow the value of Premier's retail assets.
• The recruitment of experienced and proven brand leaders to augment our strong existing senior management team in Just Group. We have also appointed new senior executives in property, logistics, cost efficiencies, marketing and online. We believe that Just Group now has an unrivalled senior management team in our sector.
• The adoption of a comprehensive Strategic Review of Premier Retail. I would encourage all shareholders to read the document which has been lodged with the ASX and is summarised in the Annual Report.
• The maintenance of a very strong balance sheet with no net debt and substantial cash reserves.
• The maintenance of our demonstrated record of rewarding shareholders through strong dividend returns.

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