Debenhams’ brand partners have largely welcomed the news that Debenhams is restructuring to supports its new strategy.
The department store group is creating three new business units: fashion and home; beauty and beauty services; and food and events.
A new executive committee member responsible for fashion and home will be appointed in due course. Debenhams CEO Sergio Bucher will oversee this division in the interim. As a result of the changes, the group trading director role will no longer exist, and Suzanne Harlow will leave the business on 20 October.
Shaun Wills, chief executive of Calverton Brands (formerly Jacques Vert Group), which has a number of concessions in Debenhams, said: “I’m very sorry to see Suzanne leave, I’ve worked with her in the past and I think she’s a brilliant operator. But I think the new board structure and executive responsibilities make sense.
“It is sensible to have someone come in to focus on fashion and home as an entire customer proposition, whether concession or own bought. I also understand why beauty would be a separate division: it’s an obvious area where Debenhams could increase its market share online.”
Achilleas Constantinou, chief executive of Debenhams-stocked occassionwear brand Ariella, agreed: “If this means they’ll focus in on each area they’re good at, develop it and make it better, that can only be a good thing.”
Daniel Najar, director and co-founder of Chi Chi London, said: “The fashion business is so fast-paced and moves so quickly that making changes can be a good thing. Debenhams clearly felt it needed to make some changes and if separating the business into three different sections or categories makes it easier to clearly see what is and isn’t working, it’ll be a good thing.
“Suzanne was there a long time and achieved some great things, so we’ll be sad to see her go.”
However, critics pointed out that there was still a lot of work needed to improve Debenhams’ offer.
One commenter on the Drapers website said: “The group needs to rebrand, position itself higher with a completely different ethos, and downsize. More quality than quantity.”
Another said: “It really does need a wholesale change of management, fresh blood with new ideas rather than managers and directors who can’t see the wood from the trees.”
Bucher, who joined Debenhams from Amazon Fashion last October, unveiled his new strategy for the business, “Debenhams Redesigned”, in April. It focuses on experiential shopping, digital growth and driving efficiency.
Announcing the restructuring, he said: ““We have strengthened the management team over the last 12 months and now have a structure in place to support our ambition to become a leader in social shopping.”