German department store group Karstadt has named Andrew Jennings as chief executive.
Jennings, who joins on January 1, succeeds Thomas Fox, the restructuring specialist parachuted into the department store chain after it was rescued from insolvency in June. Fox will remain with the company on an interim basis to help with the handover.
Jennings, who was most recently managing director of Woolworths South Africa, will be tasked with modernising the group, which has three luxury department stores - KaDeWe in Berlin, Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Munich’s Oberpollinger - and 80 Karstadt department stores across Germany, 26 sports stores and eight discount centres.
He said in an interview that he is “thrilled” to have the opportunity of turning the chain into “a modern, exciting” retail business, and added his first two months will be about talking to customers.
“The challenge is to update the business and have it benchmarked against the best businesses around the world,” he said.
A retail industry veteran, Jennings is a former president of Saks Fifth Avenue; general manager of Harrods and managing director of House of Fraser, deputy chairman of Brown Thomas in Ireland, and president of Holt Renfrew in Canada. At Woolworths South Africa, he elevated the offerings, which included bringing in new fashion and cosmetics brands.
Karstadt chairman Alain Caparros said Jennings’ “international expertise and his ability to drive innovations based on his economic foresight are crucial and will set the course for our renewed growth.”
Speaking at a retail conference earlier this week, Fox said the Karstadt’s recovery from insolvency is ahead of schedule tanks to the recovering German economy and improved sales. Group sales for the third quarter are up by 7% against the same period in the previous year, and he later revealed that earnings for the full financial year, to the end of September, reached a better-than-expected €93m (£78.4m)
Billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen and Max Azria, chairman and ceo of BCBG Max Azria, acquired Karstadt in September.