Luxury department store Harvey Nichols’ decision to cut the chief executive role has generated mixed responses from headhunters, and some predict it will need to bring in more talent to support the new structure.
Harvey Nichols chief executive Stacey Cartwright will become deputy chairman at the department store at the start of 2018, reporting to chairman and owner Sir Dickson Poon.
Group commercial director Daniela Rinaldi and group finance director Manju Malhotra will take on joint roles as co-chief operating officers. Under this new structure, they will assume joint responsibility for the day-to-day running of the business and the group’s strategic development.
A spokeswoman for Harvey Nichols confirmed that Rinaldi’s and Malhotra’s new roles are permanent, and that it is not seeking a new chief executive.
However, retail recruitment experts have questioned the decision to reshuffle the leadership structure, and some point out that there appears to be a missing element to the new team.
“To have appointed a commercial bod and a finance bod to share the COO would appear to be a duplication of skills, rather than complementary,” observed Mary Anderson-Ford, managing director at recruitment agency Aqua Retail.
“The all-important creative element seems to be lacking from the board, and at a time where retailers are striving more than ever to carve out a unique handwriting and personality – to compete in the increasingly competitive premium-luxury market – this seems like a risk.”
Anderson-Ford predicted that a “brand guru” may join the retailer in the coming months to introduce this element.
Another headhunter, who did not wish to be named, noted that the department store chain should take advantage of the reshuffle to further explore its leadership options: “Harvey Nichols is in a good place at the moment with the team there – for them, it will be business as usual. But I think this move should not be overlooked as a chance for breathing space to look for a leadership candidate.
“I think the business will either need to be led by someone who is very hands-on in the office, or bring in one or two more people in the talent development area to [support the team].”
However, Orlando Martins, chief executive and founder of recruitment firm Oresa, said the restructure underlines a bold move to improve how the business is managed.
“Although it is an unorthodox structure, businesses are having to innovate to meet the needs of the organisation, dynamic markets and the strengths of their people. Companies are increasingly coming to us to help assess and evolve their structures. For Harvey Nichols, this approach enables stability, succession and Stacey’s focus on the brand, while also providing flexibility.”
He added that as the two COOs develop their careers, there is scope for one of them to succeed Cartwright as CEO.