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Jack Wills founder on returning to the helm

Product will be at the heart of the Jack Wills brand going forwards and the retailer will explore opportunities in the UK and overseas, as well as continuing to expand its digital reach, founder and reinstated chief executive Peter Williams has said.

“There will be no big changes, but it will be about exploiting these opportunities in a controlled, successful way,” said Williams, who resumed his role as chief executive of the preppy young fashion retailer today, some two years after he stepped aside. He replaces Wendy Becker, who left after plans to float the business were put on hold.

Williams said: “The rationale for me stepping aside was that we had grown the business from its foundations in 1999 to a reasonable size and we were considering an IPO. We appointed a professional chief executive [Becker] to do that, but now the board and shareholders have decided now is not the right time to float.”

The board has always had “grand aspirations” to keep growing the business and expand overseas, but they came to the conclusion “there is more than one way to do that”, he explained.

He continued: “The business has been through a huge amount of change in those few years and Wendy has done a great job of really ‘professionalising’ the organisation. We have some really talented people and have done a lot of work with our processes and systems so there is an enormous amount of heavy lifting done already in terms of moving forward.

“Now it will be all about focusing on what we’re doing and delivering a great Christmas.”

On the tie-up with luxury designer Richard Nicoll, who became creative director in February last year, Williams said: “Product is at the heart of our brand and it is our total focus for the future; the latest collections are great.”

Williams has been an active board member in the years since he stepped down. “I am hitting the ground running and will spend the next few weeks getting to know the team a bit better.

“There are significant domestic opportunities – we don’t have that many stores and in terms of international the big one is Asia, plus we have a great franchise business in the Middle East.

“We have always been ahead of the game in our digital business and done really well in terms of digital engagement so we see lots of possibilities there in future too.”

The retailer, which refinanced last year, has 83 stores globally, including 61 in the UK and Ireland, as well as owned stores in Asia and the US and four franchise stores in the Middle East.


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