Former Farmers boss Rod McDermott killed in car crash

Rod McDermott stepped down from his role at Farmers in October 2016.

Rod McDermott stepped down from his role at Farmers in October 2016.

The man responsible for building one of New Zealand's most iconic brands has died in a car crash. 

Former Farmers chief executive Rod McDermott, 61, died on Wednesday in a head-on collision between a car and a truck.

Emergency services were called to the scene on Welcome Bay Rd, in Kairua, near Tauranga about 2.30pm.

The crash happened about 2.30pm on Wednesday on Welcome Bay Rd.

The crash happened about 2.30pm on Wednesday on Welcome Bay Rd.

McDermott died at the scene. 

READ MORE: Farmers boss steps down

He had been living in Welcome Bay with his wife, Irma.

McDermott stood down from his position with Farmers in October 2016 after 25 years with the company.

Farmers' staff were notified of his death on Thursday.

David Norman, co-owner of James Pascoe group which owns Farmers, said McDermott was "very talented".

"Rod was a very talented retailer, his understanding of merchandise and just as importantly, supplier relationships was exceptional," he said.

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"His love of the Farmers department stores business was immense and his input in the look and the feel of the business over the past decade is evident when you walk in the store."

Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, said McDermott was one of the country's most influential retailers. 

He said Farmers was a quiet achiever in the market. "They're generally a very private company, that's been part of their DNA, the way they have worked for 100 years.  In many ways, Rod McDermott - while he got on with it and did amazing things, you didn't see a lot of activity in the marketplace."

Wilkinson said McDermott had headed the company through a period of significant change for the retail industry.

"If you look at department stores globally, Farmers was the Sears of New Zealand. If you look at where Sears is now, it's a shadow of its former self. But under Rod McDermott's captaincy Farmers changed seismically and became much more confident."

He said the Farmers Club was one of its big successes, and was one of the best performing programmes in Australasia. Farmers had also succeeded by cornering the cosmetics and perfume market and bringing in well-known off-shore labels in its fashion department.

Farmers was a key part of the commercial life of many provinces, he said, and that was a strategy that had been driven from Farmers' leadership.

When he left last year, Farmers chief financial officer Michael Power said McDermott decided to seek new and different challenges, without elaborating.

McDermott's low key departure was in keeping with the store culture, Wilkinson said at the time.

"While McDermott was charged with the Farmers portfolio, there's no doubt his guardianship would have extended to other parts of the group as it positions for future opportunities and challenges."

The James Pascoe Group operated under the radar, but was a "retail juggernaut", including Whitcoulls, and jewellers Pascoe and Stewart Dawson.

A spokesman for Retail NZ said: "Rod had a significant role in New Zealand retail and we are sad to hear of his tragic passing."

 - Stuff

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