Obituary: Retailer Rod McDermott dies in car crash

The former head of Farmers department stores stepped down in October last year. 

The man credited with turning the Farmers into one of the country’s leading retailers has died in a motor vehicle accident just months after his retirement.

Rod McDermott, 61, stepped down as chief executive last October after 25 years with the company and 10 years as chief executive.

Mr McDermott’s car and a truck collided on Welcome Bay Rd, Kairua, near Tauranga, on Wednesday.

He and his wife had moved to Welcome Bay from Auckland since his retirement.

Mr McDermott joined the then largely Australian-owned Farmers Deka in 1992 as head of merchandising.

After Farmers Trading Company was acquired by the Norman family-owned James Pascoe Group in 2003, he was appointed chief operating officer and then, in 2006, managing director and chief executive.

The retail operation was streamlined into a more upmarket operation based mainly fashion and beauty products with fewer durables and electronics.

By the time it celebrated its centenary in 2009, the Farmers was steadily opening new stores rather than closing them.

David Norman, who was Farmers CEO from 2004-06, has paid tribute to Mr McDermott, saying he was responsible for turning the business into a world-class department store.

Since acquiring Farmers, the James Pascoe Group has added Whitcoulls (2011) and Stevens (2007) in New Zealand as well as Angus & Coote and Goldmark in Australia.

Among many changes that followed, Farmers moved its store in Queen St, Auckland, across the road to the former Whitcoulls flagship premises.