Retail experts and industry headhunters have shown resounding support for Oasis and Warehouse boss Liz Evans’ move to join Fat Face as CEO.
Citing her leadership skills, product knowledge and ability to grow loyal teams, insiders told Drapers Evans is well positioned to take the lifestyle retailer into its next phase of growth.
“Liz is the most fantastic leader who has rare skills,” said Moira Benigson, managing partner at recruiter MBS Group, who placed Evans in the role. “She completely understands the customer and she’s good with the product, the operations and the numbers. I think she’s going to take Anthony’s legacy and make it better.
“As a woman with a strong background in womenswear, I think she’ll perhaps make [the product] a bit more feminine.”
Evans has worked at Oasis and Warehouse Group for eight years, first as managing director before being appointed CEO in 2013. She leaves the business in a strong position: Oasis and Warehouse’s joint EBITDA increased 48% year on year to £9.5m, total sales edged up 0.1% for the year to 24 February 2018 to £275.2m, while like-for-like sales were up 5% for the year. Digital sales for the period also grew 20%, and online now represents a quarter of all sales.
Fat Face also had a good year: total sales were up 7.4% to £238.4m for the year to 2 June 2018, leading to an EBITDA rise of 5.6% to £30.2m.
Nicola Wensley, partner at headhunter Page Executive, believes Evans’ appointment paves the way for Fat Face to expand overseas: “There’s a real opportunity for Fat Face to expand internationally. You need a really strong brand DNA to grow internationally, and Evans has shown that she can do that at Oasis and Warehouse.”
Fat Face currently has 17 international stores, including five recent openings in the US, compared with 216 in the UK.
Retail analyst Nick Bubb suggested Fat Face may revisit the idea of flotation under Evans. Fat Face scrapped plans for a £110m listing in May 2014, blaming market conditions.
“It seems a sensible move, as Liz is well regarded and she has a chance to cash in if, and when, Fat Face gets an IPO away,” said Bubb.
However, times are difficult for anyone at the helm of a fashion retail brand, observed Fran Minogue, managing partner at executive search firm, Clarity Search: “She’ll be facing the challenges any retailer is facing right now: lower footfall, consumers buying less clothing and spending more on leisure, and there is a need for greater differentiation among some of the lifestyle brands.
“[Evans] will need to focus on creating an exciting customer experience and giving them a reason to visit stores.
“Liz is very bright and incisive, and she can be tough when she needs to be, but people warm to her, are very loyal and want to work with her.”