Over the past few years, there have been a number of unexpected appointments to the top rungs of traditional fashion retailers, as they have sought to break away from accepted thinking.
However, sometimes you need to bring in demonstrable experience and expertise – and that is what New Look has done with the appointment of Nigel Oddy as chief operating officer.
This time last year, as New Look struggled, its executive chairman Alistair McGeorge set out some clear goals to reduce its costs, recover the broad appeal of its product, reconnect with customers, and join up ecommerce and stores.
Oddy has a strong grounding in the operational side of bricks-and-mortar retail – he spent 23 years at Marks & Spencer in various roles, including retail, buying, and establishing its first direct-sourcing office in the Far East. He joined House of Fraser as executive director before becoming CEO in 2015.
He also understands the vital importance of driving a multichannel mindset, ensuring shoppers are met with a consistent experience across the board. This proved a successful strategy for House of Fraser: under his leadership, in 2016, the department store chain reported its first pre-tax profit in 10 years.
Oddy is well respected, and will bring added weight to New Look as it continues on its turnaround journey. McGeorge was parachuted in to help New Look out of a sticky fix – Oddy’s appointment as COO could be part of a longer-term succession plan.
Some of the challenges facing New Look are, of course, symptomatic of the wider shift in fashion retail. More is being sold online, lumbering retailers like New Look with a growing number of loss-making stores. Last year, it set out plans to close 85 stores through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – a practice that is becoming all too common.
This week, we take a closer look at the impact this is having on the relationship between fashion retailers and landlords. As both sides face increasingly volatile trading conditions, flexibility and communication are increasingly imperative.
This will be one of many challenges facing Oddy in his new role, but his background more than equips him for the task.