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Exclusive: Debenhams sourcing director exits

Debenhams sourcing director Richard Jones is leaving, Drapers can reveal.

Jones joined the department store chain in February 2018 and led the product development and sourcing team, which includes overseas hubs in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

He was instrumental in establishing Debenhams’ partnership with Li & Fung earlier this year, under which the Chinese supply chain giant will take over a substantial part of the retailer’s own-brand sourcing to try to improve product quality, lead times, margins and working-capital efficiency.

Steven Cook, managing director of fashion and home at Debenhams, told Drapers: “Richard was key in establishing the Li & Fung partnership and was aware his position would change over time as that developed. I’m very sad personally not to have him in the business but he knew [the deal] was best for the business.

“Li & Fung will be taking on a much larger proportion of that day to sourcing as we go on. The UK sourcing team will liaise between our UK buying team and Li & Fung going forward. We just didn’t need that international lead under the new structure. We will start to see efficiencies [from the partnership] from autumn 19 and spring 20.”

In terms of product Cook said Debenhams’ womenswear collection for spring had outperformed and added that menswear divisions will undergo an overhaul this autumn: “For autumn we are putting our best foot forward in terms of product. We are confident despite the market. We need to remain nimble and react accordingly to the turbulence, but that’s our job to sell profitably.”

Ahead of the crucial company voluntary arrangement (CVA) vote tomorrow Cook said the Debenhams team is focused on delivering profitable sales growth, despite the tough market.

“Trade is challenging for every UK retailer at the moment, but we are improving the profitability of our sales. We are working through our challenges, but we are comfortable with where we are sitting.

“Over the last year our suppliers have been supportive throughout the refinancing and restructuring. The teams have accomplished a tremendous amount and how they have stepped up to the plate has been admirable. Everyone has taken the bull by the horns and moved forward.”

Before joining Debenhams Jones worked at Australian retailer Target as merchandise trading director – a role he held for three years from 2013.

He joined Tesco in 2009 as clothing and home commercial director before joining Irish supermarket Dunnes Stores in 2011 as director of textiles, where he worked for two years.

He also played a significant part in developing the Sainsbury’s Tu clothing business and brand. He worked there as clothing divisional director for six years until 2009.

Jones additionally held various roles in store management, buying, merchandising and procurement at Marks & Spencer, between 1985 and 2002.

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