When the news broke yesterday that Angela Ahrendts is to leave Burberry next year, I was far less surprised by her decision to go to Apple than by Burberry’s promotion of Christopher Bailey to replace her.
Bailey is a product man; what does he know about running a global, multibillion pound business? An awful lot, probably.
After the initial shock, I realised just what a great decision it was by Burberry. I admire the brand’s trust, belief in and nurturing of its staff. How refreshing to see a company promote internally rather than bring in an outsider. More fashion businesses should put in place better succession planning to train and reward loyal staff and ensure continuity of strategy - if the strategy is the right one, of course.
Sceptics (like myself, at least initially) are questioning Bailey’s business acumen, with some suggesting that former chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright could do a better job. But Burberry didn’t hire Ahrendts because she can add up; they hired her because she’s a visionary. Because she saw an opportunity in China before many of her competitors. Because she embraced the digital world when most luxury brands were scared of websites. And she did all that with Bailey by her side.
From the outside, it’s difficult to know who, of the two, was responsible for the individual digital developments.
It’s clear Bailey was responsible for the incredible turnaround in the product. But talk to Bailey and you’ll soon see that he is Burberry, that he lives and breathes the brand. And I’m sure no one believes for a second that he spends his days just sketching out coats. He’s responsible for the brand as a whole and with that responsibility comes commercial nous.
Provided Burberry has the support of a strong management and creative team in place - stockists of the brand assure me it does - then there’s no reason why Bailey can’t do a stellar job.