Myer’s struggle through the pandemic has continued after chair Garry Hounsell retired from the role and blamed the company’s two largest shareholders for a lack of support.

Mr Hounsell, who has overseen the department store chain’s struggle to keep pace with online shopping, chose not to seek re-election as chair or director at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

“It has become apparent that Myer’s two largest shareholders are not supporting my re-election and I will not allow my ongoing tenure as chairman to be a distraction to the hard work of the executive team,” he said.

Those shareholders are Premier Investments, chaired by Solomon Lew, and Wilson Asset Management, chaired by Geoff Wilson.

Mr Lew has been critical of management and has said suppliers are hesitant to do business with Myer, while Mr Wilson has called for fewer directors and reduced pay.

Myer last month reported a full-year loss of $172.4 million after sales fell more than 15 per cent from store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Hounsell has been chair for three years and said the Myer business had strengthened, and its online business was one of the fastest growing in Australia.

He has been temporarily replaced by acting chair JoAnne Stephenson.

She referred to the shareholders’ criticisms and said Myer had the right management team and they needed to focus on trading.

“A war of words in the media is damaging for customers, damaging for the Myer brand, and therefore damaging for you, our shareholders,” she told the meeting.

“What Myer needs now, more than ever, is stability.”

Representatives for Wilson Asset Management and Premier Investments were unable to comment before publication.

Myer shares were down 2.08 per cent to 23 cents at 1550 AEDT.