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Coast rejigs top team and cuts staff

Andrew Skinner, merchandising director at occasionwear retailer Coast, has been promoted to managing director as part of a restructure that will see the departure of three long-serving staff and 14 other redundancies.

Chief executive Kate Bostock told Drapers the slimming down of the top team and cost reduction are part of an ongoing process to demerge Coast from its former Aurora stablemates Karen Millen, Warehouse and Oasis.

Buying director Andrea Hickman, who has almost 10 years’ service with Coast, and digital director Jess Shepherd (née Wilks), who has worked for Aurora group brands for 12 years, are leaving in May.

HR director Lisa Bedford, who has been with Coast for 14 years, will leave in June after overseeing the redundancy of 14 roles from various departments, including three retail area managers plus head office staff.

Jo McWilliams, who has been with Coast for four years, is being promoted from retail director to channels director.

She will work closely with Bostock and creative director Neil Hendy on product and selling, while Skinner will be in charge of day-to-day management of the trading function.

A finance director is being sought to replace interim chief financial officer David Wiseman, who has been with Coast since November, helping to unpick the business from Aurora.

Bostock, who joined Coast in September 2013, hired Skinner and Hendy. Skinner previously reported to Bostock during her eight-year stint as head of fashion at Marks & Spencer.

She told Drapers: “We are 18 months into Coast’s turnaround and many of these changes have been planned for a long time. When Andrew joined us last March to sort out our overstock issues, it was always the intention that he would have a bigger role, which is why he is now my direct deputy.”

She admitted that trading for Coast had been challenging, particularly in its standalone stores. The estate now numbers 37, down from 42 when she took over.

“We are committed to having our own stores, but we want fewer doing better for us. The ones that currently aren’t performing cancel out the ones that are doing well. Online and our areas in partners like John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams are working well.”

More international business will also be a focus, to be handled primarily by Bostock and McWilliams. “We pulled out of Bloomingdale’s in the US because we weren’t making money, but business is good in Germany, strong in Spain and it has improved in the Emirates via our partnership with Alshaya because the product is better.

“We are also going into China with House of Fraser. The strategy is working and we see so much opportunity if we stay true to what Coast is.”

No one from the buying team has been affected in the job cuts and Bostock said the product team is likely to be strengthened. Hannah Juson, currently at Tesco, is joining Coast as dress buyer in early May.

In its full year results to March 3, 2014, Coast made an operating loss of £6.2m on sales of £79.5m. At the time the business said its turnaround plan would take at least 12-18 months to deliver.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Does a business this size really need a CEO and an MD. It seems a strange decision for a business that is making a loss and making redundancies, albeit that 3 of these are at Director level.

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  • Andrea will be a great gain for another business. She is an exceptional talent!

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