In a world where the average staff turnover is reportedly on the increase, careers like Christos Angelides’ don’t come along often. For 28 years - from trainee buyer to one of the best remunerated people on the team - he has been part of the make up at Next. And it shows.
Next has become one of the most formidable players in the retail industry, famously besting Marks & Spencer’s profits for its most recent set of results – despite having around a third of its turnover and without the luxury of a food division.
For the year to January 25, 2014, Next generated a turnover of £3.74bn, up 5.4%, and profits up 11.8% to £695.2m. That compares with M&S, whose pre-tax profit fell 3.9% to £623m despite group sales rising 2.7% to £10.7bn.
To rub salt into Marc Bolland’s wounds, Angelides’ pay packet for that financial year rose to £6.56m, making him the highest paid member of staff at the retailer. By comparison the M&S chief executive saw his sliced by more than a quarter.
It’s not all about M&S of course, but it is a helpful marker when looking back at Angelides’ work at Next. He has navigated some challenges – improving both the womenswear and menswear output, working to transition Next to become one of the most advanced ecommerce players among the old bricks-and-mortar businesses – consistently leaving its rival in its wake.
It’s the way Next understands its customers that others seek to emulate – good quality clothing with nods to trends, a comfortable shopping environment on and offline and of course, arguably most importantly, its lack of discounting.
For Next, his departure is “a really big deal” as one former colleague described it. “It’s a massive deal – the end of an era,” he added. At the time of writing, a Next spokesman said no decision had been taken about replacing him, and whether this would involve promoting from within, recruiting from outside, or splitting the role entirely.
At Abercrombie & Fitch, Angelides will be faced with a host of challenges that it’s unlikely he will have come across during his time at Next – his new boss Mark Jeffries has a habit of courting controversy and this is unlikely to change.
But it may well be a challenge that he is suited for. A&F’s group like-for-likes were down 10% when the retailer reported its results last August, and word on the street is that trading, particularly for its fascias Hollister and Gilly Hicks, has been less than stellar.
Angelides must tune into the demands of the A&F customer in the same way he tuned into those of Next, if he is to turn its fortunes around.