Customers cheer on Masters staff in final days while Home Consortium development plans continue

Masters – A failure of corporate governance?

There are less than four weeks to go until Masters Home Improvement closes for good and customers are starting to post messages of encouragement to employees as they approach the final days of their work, while questions still remain over the future of the vacant sites.

The Masters warehouse and development sites were purchased at the time of Woolworths’ exit from the DIY chain in August by Home Consortium, but Fairfax reports this morning that some landlords of the individual sites are not happy with the idea of Woolworths signing over lease agreements to Home Consortium, and could consider legal action.

Earlier this week the group announced that property developer Primewest would get involved in Home Consortium’s redevelopment of Master’s sites into multi-brand homemaker centres.

“We are excited to be part of this opportunity to reposition the portfolio into great retail shopping experiences by adopting the philosophy of right tenant, right space,” Primewest founding director David Schwarz reportedly said of the deal.

But as brands express interest in joining Home Consortium’s super stores and the big players start to sketch out future deals for the sites, staff members on the floor at Masters are being faced with increasingly empty shelves and stressed customers.

The attitude of shoppers towards Masters staff has been a point of key contention from the time that liquidator GA Australia commenced the stock fire sale earlier this year, with employees telling SmartCompany they were under immense pressure and had to keep up with frequently changing sale prices while facing aggressive customers.

However, as the business enters its final three weeks of trading and stock is cut to 70% off, some customers have begun a concerted effort to congratulate staff for poise as they face uncertain employment futures over the Christmas period.

This extends to shoppers calling out bad behaviour from others when they have witnessed it in store.

“I was absolutely appalled by the behaviour of a customer. He was rude abusive and threatening to the staff members,” one shopper complained on Facebook this morning.

Read more: The big names wanting to move into Masters stores: Why so many retailers was big barn sites

“The staff are only there to do a job and provide a service to the public. They do no come to work to be a punching bag for someone who’s having a bad day.”

“Appreciation post! I’ve seen a lot of people say they’ve gone to Masters for the sales and found that sales were not as they said, lack of customer service, lack of products etc,” said another shopper, praising staff for their assistance when buying products for a house move with children.

“I saved $217.10! That is amazing!”

One consistent theme throughout the liquidation sale has been customer confusion on the rollout of sale items and disparities between signage and actual ticket prices. With the Master’s website and phone lines now offline, the only way to check stock levels and prices is to visit a store in person.

Insolvency experts have told SmartCompany on a number of occasions that liquidation sales of this scale are incredibly complex and that customers have been failing to realise the lack of control that floor staff have over the execution of the sale process.

Gess Rambaldi, partner in the business recovery and insolvency team at Pitcher Partners, said in September that the actual sale process could actually go beyond December if all stock is not sold by this time.

“One of the things that can happen is that they can remove the stock from the businesses and sell them off site,” he said.

Masters stores will close on December 11.

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