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Exclusive: Debenhams ‘culls’ head office teams

Debenhams has slashed a raft of senior and director level roles across its men’s, women’s and children’s wear departments, as part of a head office restructuring, Drapers can reveal.

Debenhams director of buying Rob Faucherand, trading director for menswear and childrenswear Paul Baldwin and head of menswear design Julian Fuller are all understood to have left the business. 

Diane Frankel, head of buying for womenswear, Alice Duggan, head of buying for womenswear – casual, and Russell Fish, head of design, have also left, Drapers understands.

All have worked at Debenhams for more than a decade. 

The departures are the latest job cuts in an ongoing, wide-reaching consultation process across the business, as the retailer tries to reduce teams as part of a cost-cutting drive.

A source close to the situation said: “They are having a big restructuring, in one division there are 60 people that will now be about 12 people.”

One industry source told Drapers: “It’s savage. Some departments have been severely cut. It’s more than a major pruning – it’s a cull. Debenhams has a lot of issues that have been built up over the years and it requires very drastic action.”

Another source said: “It has needed to be done. The situation at Debenhams has been terrible.”

Debenhams declined to comment on individual departures but said in a statement: “Earlier this year we detailed our intentions to structure the organisation around three business units: beauty and beauty services; fashion and home; and food and events.

“As set out in our interim results recently, we have already started work on reducing complexity across the business, including simplifying our processes in store and reducing the number of grades in our UK support centres, and this work will continue over the coming months.”

In addition to the departures, Debenhams has appointed Charlotte Burrows as digital director, who it said will be “joining to drive forward our digital ambitions.” Burrows joins from Estee Lauder, where she held the position of director of online for the UK and Ireland.

Debenhams’ profit before tax plummeted 84.6% year on year to £13.5m in the 26 weeks to 3 March. Group EBITDA dropped 30.6% to £103.5m for the half-year.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Wondered when this was going to get reported, anyway at last and not before time, actually this is good for all concerned inc the people who have now left as they have been their for way too long and surely needed new challenges, so everyone is now put out of their misery. Perhaps with all the other changes we may now start to see Debs re position itself, a clear path is now ahead, it needs time and some very creative Management who have an insight and understanding for retail/e-tail for the next decade and beyond, leave no blogger or social media networking platform stone unturned, tune into sustainability at all levels, appeal and attract Generation Z and last of all but by no means least get some damn credibility back into product that is so weak and cheap it's embarrassing. If all of this is achieved then it at least they stand some chance of a future.

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  • Eric Musgrave

    Wow, that is a huge To Do list in the previous comment! How long will all that take and, in the unlikely event of it being even partly successful, where will the market have moved to while Debenhams is trying to catch up to where it should be today? I fear that in their current forms Debs and House of Fraser cannot survive. Does anyone have any memory of such a turnround being achieved in the UK or elsewhere/? I don't. Well done to Drapers for nailing this story given Debenhams' (understandable) reticence to confirm what the market has been hearing for a few weeks.

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  • darren hoggett

    When you look at retailers such as Debenhams, are a throwback towards a trade union style, i.e over managed and over manned. You can only get away with that for so long until of course it all falls apart.

    Inefficiency suits - or should I say suited - big business. Who wants someone to come in to point out all the failures? They won't be popular, so the status quo has remained for too long. Nobody likes being told they are useless.

    HOF, Debenhams et al woes are of no surprise and I agree that they cannot survive in their current form. A massive downsizing of physical presence and repositioning is required at the very least. It's 'do-able' but only if the right people are allowed to make the right decisions. That rarely happens.

    The clothing trade is a middle aged health farm with little intention of shaping up, because for many, the alternative is far worse.

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  • Eric, yep long list but it is what's needed, not just for Debs, is it all too late, probably, something more niche and dynamic may rise from the ashes more in line with what is required to excite and fire up the publics imagination for High Street shopping, if HoF goes then we will be looking at JL as last man standing, it has not had the value ripped out of it's heart and remains a desirable place to shop, has managed to stay inspirational bringing in on-line only brands into retail unlike HoF and Debs which in current form are almost redundant and yes time is def not on their side.

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  • Hear all the comments mentioned and all state what the market knows, the real challenge for Debs, M&S etc etc is how to cater for the ‘mid market’ that is currently over supplied and under-shopped. Don’t think retail has ever undergone such rapid changes , the changes required in order to counter legacy leases and organisation, combined with changes of shopper behaviour are proving a test for even the best.
    Let’s also show some sympathy for anyone who is losing their jobs, it’s a difficult time for them.

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  • This was obvious. Surprise is how long the CEO and new chairman took to get this going. Has it been at least 18 months since their arrival?

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  • Shut the door and turn off the lights on the way out. On a positive note it will cut their heating and lighting bills with 6 less offices to maintain. They need a major shake up-it's like discount central in there. Why would anyone pay full prices for goods. Just wait a week and blue cross sale will be in. Time for a re-think.

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  • ...

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  • The key commodity of a business is a talented workforce. This should consist of experience and new talent. Sadly Sergio and his cronies have taken the approach over the last 6 months of ejecting anyone who speaks out against some of the nonsensical stuff going on. Yes some dead wood has been justifiably cleared however at the same time some seriously talented individuals have also gone. A bullying culture is now in place. Speak out at your peril!
    The downward spiral is now fully en train. Shareholders watch out.
    The endless talk by Sergio of Stevenage ( an overstaffed and unsustainable model) and Preen ( a minuscule mix of the total WW business) is a smokescreen masking the truth of what is really happening. Am surprised the retail press and the City buy into it. Sergio will no doubt adopt the approach of blaming the previous CEO or the retail climate however the blame lies at his feet. He should evaluate the balance of time he spends in Ibiza by his pool verses time walking the shop floor. How many Fridays will Sergio be in the UK as summer approaches? The inertia and lack of ideas over the last 18 months has been truly astounding. Deliver value to the shareholder and stop treating a 200 year old company as a toy.

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  • Cream never, ever rises to the top in this industry. There has been no end of talent that has been stuffed over the years.

    Speak your mind or dare to constructively criticise? - You get sacked.

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