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Macdonald quits Big W after just 10 months

AAP logoAAP 15/11/2016 Petrina Berry

Woolworths shares have slipped due to the resignation of retail expert Sally Macdonald as Big W chief executive after less than a year in the job.

"It is apparent that the transformation of BIG W will take three to five years to complete and, unfortunately, this time horizon is inconsistent with Sally's expectation when she joined," Woolworths managing director Brad Banducci said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ms Macdonald has been credited with turning around luxury handbag retailer Oroton as chief executive from 2006 to 2013. She only became Big W chief executive in January.

Highly regarded as a retail expert, Ms Macdonald's premature departure from Big W is likely to have shaken investors, CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy told AAP.

"What they are essentially saying is that an expert in this area with a track record of success thinks this will take too long, and that's why we are seeing pressure on Woolworths' share price," Mr McCarthy said.

Shares in Woolworths dropped as much as 1.1 per cent on the news in a stronger share market, before closing six cents lower, down 0.3 per cent, at $23.30.

Rival Wesfarmers, which owns Coles, Kmart and Target, gained 50 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $41.00.

Woolworths' home improvement business head David Walker will replace Ms Macdonald as Big W's acting chief executive.

The discount department store chain has been struggling to grow its sales, with first quarter sales falling 5.5 per cent from a year earlier to $880 million.

Removing the effects of store openings and other one-off events, comparable sales fell 5.7 per cent.

Woolworths booked about $460 million in asset writedowns related to Big W and Ezibuy, the group's online retailer, when it reported a $1.235 billion annual loss in August.

Sales were down 2.8 per cent to $3.8 billion partly due to clearance activity and a winter fashion range that Ms Macdonald had said did not "resonate" with customers.

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