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Myer, Sir Norman (1897–1956)

Sir Norman Myer, chairman and managing director of The Myer Emporium Ltd. Died at his home “Whernside”, Albany Road, Toorak, late yesterday afternoon. He was 58 and had been ill for only a few weeks.

Sir Norman Myer is survived by his wife, formerly Miss Pamela Sallmann, and two infant sons and by two sons and a daughter of a previous marriage.

He was knighted in the Queen’s birthday honors list in May of this year.

Sir Norman Myer was born in Russia and, after the death of his father, was brought to Australia as a small boy by his uncle, Mr Sidney Myer.

After serving overseas in World War I he joined Mr Sidney Myer in his Bourke Street store and took control of the firm in 1938.

In the following 18 years he built it into one of the five largest retail stores in the world.

Sir Normal Myer was one of the leaders of civic development in Melbourne and was founder of the City Development Association.

He was head of the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust and for this and other Myer charitable organisations had been of the highest order.

The president of the Australian Council of Retailers (Sir Frank Richardson) said: “The record of Sir Norman Myer during the last 22 years stamps him clearly as one of the outstanding merchants of the world. But, despite his success, he remained a simple, warm-hearted man. He was of outstanding energy and vision and the whole community bears benefactions as evidence of his forceful character and deep humanity.”

His other directorships included Overseas Corporation (Australia) Ltd., Barclay Investment Pty. Ltd., Bruck Mills (Australia) Ltd. And Myer Emporium (S.A.) Ltd.

He was founder and chairman of the city Development Association, which set out to revive and foster public interest and pride in the city of Melbourne. Concerned that the city had spent more than a decade in dullness and lack of progress, he headed a group of businessmen in founding the association in an effort to remedy this. Educated at Wesley College, Sir Norman Myer had been brought to Melbourne by his uncle, the late Sidney Myer, founder of the Myer Emporium, who had arrived in Australia in 1895. He was still a schoolboy when the first Myer store was opened up at Bendigo.

War Service

At the age of 17 he enlisted in the first A.I.F. and was sent to Europe, where he was in turn a driver, a gunner and finally an artillery lieutenant.

Returning from the war, he joined his uncle in his Bourke Street store, where he set out to leran every aspect of the business, from lift driving, parcel wrapping and docket writing to the actual elling of merchandise. He was put in charge of the hosiery department where he worked 60 hours or more a week as a £6 10/ a week salesman.

In 1927, he was sent to manage the recently acquired Adelaide store and when Mr Sidney Myer died in 1934, he returned to Melbourne as managing director and deputy chairman under his uncle, Mr E. B. Myer.

On the death of Mr E. B. Myer in 1938, Sir Norman Myer took over control of the company.

Subsidiaries

Under his leadership, the Myer Emporium business increased tenfold. Subsidiary stores were launched in Adelaide, Ballarat, Geelong and Brisbane.

Woollen mills were acquired at Ballarat, a £2 million furniture production factory was developed, and permanent buying offices set up in London, Paris, America and many European capitals.

Today, the Myer Emporium is rated among the five largest stores in the world. In its last financial year, it handled more than 56 million transactions.

Sir Norman Myer earned, with indisputable justification, the title of “Australia’s biggest shopkeeper.”

As a co-trustee of the late Sidney Myer estate and chairman of the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust, it is estimated Sir Norman Myer handed for these and other Myer charitable enterprises £750,000 to assist community cause, civic, and cultural, since 1938.

In February last year, he announced the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust’s plan to build a £100,000 music bowl for the people of Victoria on King’s Domain.

The trust had sent members of two leading Australian architectural firms abroad to study music bowls at Hollywood and the ancient Italian city of Verona.

The Melbourne bowl, to be built in the next three or four years, will cater for non-paying audiences of up to 250,000.

Daily Round

Sir Norman Myer was a man who did not believe in spending much time in his solemn Lonsdale Street office. Each day he made his daily rounds, greeting dozens of his employees and exploring every new idea and every new gadget on its merits. He was keenly interested in commercial aviation, and one of his earlier ventures, soon after World War I, was to put his deferred pay into buying an old airfield at Glenroy and a fleet of decrepit aircraft. These, he and a friend used to provide “flips” and 10/6 a time.

Among his many outside interests, Sir Norman Myer was one of the founders of the Australian-American Association and a member of the executives of the Australian Red Cross Society.

Original publication

Citation details

'Myer, Sir Norman (1897–1956)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/myer-sir-norman-11216/text26017, accessed 24 January 2019.

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