Stacey Cartwright is hoping to adopt Burberry’s innovative approach to retail in her new role as chief executive of Harvey Nichols, with the department store’s online presence a key focus for her first 100 days.
Speaking to Drapers on Wednesday morning, when her appointment was announced, former Burberry chief financial officer Cartwright said she was looking “to see whether [Harvey Nichols] has the same foundations in place” that allowed Burberry to develop into a £2bn global business, renowned for innovations such as allowing shoppers to buy directly from the catwalk and screening shows in stores.
“At Burberry it was about recruiting great young hungry talent who had these fabulous ideas and giving them space to express them, and investment to achieve them,” she said. “When I get in [to Harvey Nichols] I will be looking for fresh young innovative talent – digital natives – who will be able to shake up the rest of us.”
Cartwright added: “I’m sure there is a very solid backbone – it will be a case of spotting the gaps and reinforcing the talent.”
As part of the recruitment process, which took several months and saw outgoing chief executive Joseph Wan and chairman Dickson Poon scour the globe for a suitable candidate, Cartwright produced a business plan but insisted her strategy was not yet “baked in stone”.
Her other priorities include “getting everything humming here in the UK”, continuing to expand internationally and conducting a review “from the roots” of Harvey Nichols’ nascent private label plans. She also plans to talk to key brands, saying the retailer’s objective was “to carry the best of the best”.
Although she does not start until February 17, Cartwright plans to use the next month to go “under the radar” at the Knightsbridge flagship and head office, to meet as many members of the team as possible.
“My style is very much to involve the team and to take soundings from everybody as to what they see as a key priority,” she said. “I’m not planning some great revolutionary change – I think the path that has been set is the right one.”
Cartwright quashed rumours that her appointment heralded a sale or IPO of Harvey Nichols, saying they were “absolute rubbish”.
“My prerequisite for the role I chose was that it would be private,” she said. “I have, and had, no desire to be chief executive of a publicly traded company.”
Wan steps down at the end of March after 21 years at the luxury business, which has eight stores in the UK and seven overseas. He said: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than handing over to Stacey a stronger Harvey Nichols than the one I joined. I wish Stacey well in her new role and under her leadership I look forward to seeing Harvey Nichols growing from strength to strength.”
Poon added that Cartwright’s appointment “underlines our commitment to raising the bar even higher in this sector”.