Industry observers have expressed confidence over the new senior appointments at Topshop/Topman, but warned that changes are needed if the retailer is to return to its former glory.
Last week Arcadia named David Hagglund as the new creative director at Topshop/Topman. Hagglund, who has his own creative agency in Stockholm, will start in the newly created role on 4 September, the same day as new Topshop/Topman CEO Paul Price, who joins from Burberry.
The creative director role was previously split between Gordon Richardson, creative director for Topman for 17 years, and Kate Phelan, creative director for Topshop since 2011. Both will leave later this year.
Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green said the appointments marked a “new era” and will move both brands forward with their global expansion plans.
Some headhunters expressed surprise over Hagglund’s appointment, but were optimistic the retailer could be turned around.
“They need someone who is pretty strong and prepared to take some risks,” said James Hyde, director of FH Executive Search.
“I knew a few people in the frame and it took them a long time to make a decision. The bad press around Philip Green and BHS didn’t help matters, but it wasn’t a huge contributing factor as Topshop and Topman are still strong names, and have so much potential for a revival under the right person.”
Another headhunter agreed that better days were ahead for the fascias: “There has been an exodus of late and there are people so wounded by the scars of BHS that they refuse to consider working for another Arcadia brand. It will take some time for the new top level to bed in, but I’m sure some new glory days are around the corner for the company.”
Harveen Gill, managing director at recruitment consultancy HGA Group said the appointment was the right one for the current market: “Putting another product person into that role wasn’t going to fix [Topshop/Topman]. Retail is changing every day. It is all about experience now and Hagglund is someone who will work across branding, content, creative marketing and product. It was the right move to make.”
One analyst said new creative boss needs to focus on getting Topshop’s “fashion edge” back: “The new creative chief needs to work on getting the brand’s edge back, as it has lost it. Topshop tried to please a broader church and it muted its style.
“River Island, on the other hand, is a great example of a retailer that has always stuck to its handwriting and strengths. Arcadia can’t do anything about the growing competition – Asos, Zara and H&M aren’t going to suddenly start going backwards, so it needs to get its ducks in a row.”
In its most recent results for the year to 27 August 2016 Topshop/Topman’s operating profit before exceptional items declined by 12.8% to £118m, while total operating profit fell by 18.8% to £109.5m.
Total turnover slid marginally to £990.8m, down from £1bn, while in the UK it dipped by 1.3% to £895.7m.