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Editor's Comment: What fashion could learn from Harvey Nichols' bespoke approach

Developing the right organisational structure is something fashion businesses are constantly working towards perfecting. And it is particularly important as the industry goes through a period of transition, as it is today.

The rise of online shopping, evolving shopping behaviours, upheaval caused by Brexit, pressure to speed up the supply chain, and rising rates and rents are all affecting retail strategies and, by extension, organisational structures.

This week, Harvey Nichols announced that chief executive Stacey Cartwright is to become deputy chairman. She will not be directly replaced – instead, group commercial director Daniela Rinaldi and group finance director Manju Malhotra will take on joint chief operating officer roles.

Speaking to industry insiders, many were surprised by this unusual structural change, although opinions differed on whether it is the right one. Some believe these are interim appointments and that Harvey Nichols will announce a new chief executive at a later date, although the retailer has insisted this is not the case.

Others were more positive about the decision, emphasising that organisational structures need to become much more bespoke to fit the needs of individual businesses, rather than all conforming to a standard format.

This is becoming an increasingly common theme in fashion retail. We’ve seen several surprising appointments over the past few months. Alex Williamson coming in at House of Fraser (more on his strategy for the retailer here), and Jill McDonald at Marks & Spencer – both with no previous experience of working in fashion – are the most recent examples.

What these appointments and structural changes show is that retailers are looking to innovate, bring in new skills and experience, and streamline their teams for ultimate efficiency. This could bear fruit, as long as they remain focused on the two most important things: the product and the customer.

Talking of product, this week’s magazine is a bumper issue of fashion, footwear and fabric trends with coverage from London Fashion Week, as well as trade shows Micam and Première Vision, highlighting the mix of creativity, innovation and trends across these three events.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Really? New skills and innovate. From what has been written the two appointments have been with Harvey Nichols for over 20 years! What new skills and level of innovation can they possibly be expected to bring.

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