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Coast to see Kate Bostock touch by spring ... MBO to follow?

Kate Bostock plans to put her imprint on Coast as early as spring 14, the incoming chief executive has told Drapers. 

Clearly delighted to be in complete charge of a fashion business, she also hinted that a management buyout of the chain could be in her plans.

Speaking exclusively to Drapers this week, Bostock said: “I’m really chuffed about the job and really excited to be running something myself. I had been in two minds about starting my own brand, but with Coast everything is there. 

“It’s a successful business, it’s omnichannel, it’s international and there are some very good people who can give me great support. 

“I have had some great bosses, but I am long in the tooth and I just want to run my own business, to make the decisions and get on with it.”

Asked whether a buyout was an option, she laughed and said: “We’ll see”. A sale of the business is thought likely as Coast is currently in the process of being separated from Aurora stablemates Oasis and Warehouse, with autumn 2014 set as the deadline.

Although her starting date is September 16, Bostock is already influencing Coast’s direction. 

“The team are part-way through finalising spring 14 and are booking capacity and putting down fabric, but I have asked them to hold back in some areas so we can bring in new things,” she told Drapers. 

“I will be going out to see our Far East suppliers in October and most definitely you will see changes in our summer 14 ranges.”

When the news broke of her appointment on Tuesday, both Bostock and Derek Lovelock, the group’s executive chairman, confirmed that extending Coast’s offer from its special occasion specialism was a high priority

Bostock’s vision is to keep Coast as a “dressing up” destination but to provide “outfits for more than just weddings and Ascot”. 

“Another attraction for me was Coast’s expertise in dresses because out of all the things I’ve done, that category is my favourite,” Bostock explained. 

“But the Coast offer has been perhaps too one-dimensional. Dressing up is not just about special occasions, it’s about dressing up for a midweek meal, a weekend barbecue or drinks with friends after work. It should be about nice tops to wear with favourite jeans or dresses with a bit of sparkle.”

Bostock added: “Dressing up has never been more on-trend.” 

A better selection of footwear and accessories is also on the cards, with Bostock saying both areas were “high priorities” after addressing the mainline.  

“I’ve always thought it’s been a bit of a token gesture with Coast – I believe in doing something with conviction or not at all,” she said.

However, Bostock was confident about the future opportunities for the business. “There is nothing worrying me about Coast. It’s got a unique brand profile. As I’ve done throughout my career, I’ll be focusing on what the core customer wants and keeping an eye on the competition. I am very confident and can’t wait to get cracking.”

Despite the negative comments surrounding her short-lived stint at Asos, which ended in July after just seven months, Bostock is upbeat: “I don’t regret anything in life and I certainly don’t regret going to Asos. But Coast feels instinctively right for me and if I’d had the choice of Asos or Coast earlier in the year, I’d definitely have taken Coast.”

The job was offered to her by Lovelock, who is a friend and has acted as a mentor for a number of years. She replaces Margaret McDonald, who has relocated to the US to head up lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret. 

Coast has 373 stores and concessions in 26 countries.

What the industry made of the move….

While Margaret McDonald steered the business in a luxury direction, I’d expect younger appeal under Kate. This is a great moment for everyone infuriated by the infamous comment from Asos about her age – that was outrageous, and is now suitably put to bed.

Mary Anderson-Ford, managing director of recruitment firm Aquaretail

Coast is the sort of fashion chain that people would have expected Kate to gravitate to, although it’s surprising she didn’t want to lie low a bit longer after her traumatic experience at Asos. Coast’s trading record is quite volatile, so this is not on the face of it a licence for Kate to print money.     

Nick Bubb, independent analyst

If you look at Kate’s background, what Coast stands for, and its plans for the next few years, it’s clearly a good move for her. Although her time at Asos was short, she will have picked up valuable experience from its ecommerce and international developments. 

Nicola Wensley, associate director,  recruitment firm Michael Page

It is the perfect meeting of minds – the perfect solution for all of us. She has worked with Liz [Evans, chief executive of Oasis and Warehouse] before and Gemma [Metheringham, joint MD of Karen Millen] and obviously we know each other, so there are lots of friendly faces.

Derek Lovelock, chairman, Aurora Fashions

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