The new chief executive of Jacques Vert Group, Shaun Wills, has said one of his main priorities will be to make the womenswear concessions business more contemporary and relevant to customers.
“We have been a bit guilty of resting on our laurels,” Wills admitted today, following the announcement that he has been promoted from chief financial officer to CEO.
Wills replaces Tim Davies at the helm. Davies joined the business in February 2015 as transformation director before becoming chief executive in April. He is departing for another retailer, which has not yet been disclosed.
Wills was formerly chief financial officer at Supergroup and also joined in April 2015, having previously held roles at The White Company, Habitat, Fat Face, New Look and Debenhams.
“We’re at the end of the first phase of a three-stage recovery plan after several years of decline and we’ve worked to realign the cost base and closed a number of loss-making brands,” Wills told Drapers. “I am picking it up in a much better place than it was 12 months ago when Tim became chief executive.
“We have broken even on an underlying EBITDA basis and the next phase will be all about product and retail. I have over 25 years’ experience in retail so I think I can bring a lot. There’s still a lot to do though.”
He explained: “We’re not going to lose occasionwear but we are going to broaden that a bit. We have a great phrase of ‘not an everyday day’ which sums it up well – it’s not all about going to Ascot but but might be about a big meeting at work.”
The company has appointed two new brand directors for Jacques Vert and Precis Petite to “freshen things up”.
Andrea Hickman has joined from her role as buying director at Coast for Precis Petite, while Julia Darlington has joined Jacques Vert on a six-month interim role, having returned from Australia where she was working for Metalicus and Forever New.
The business will look at how to improve Eastex, which offers day and evening wear, in due course.
Wills said his primary focus is to “get product right and win back market share”.
The company is poised to open a store in Tunbridge Wells later this month in a unit formerly occupied by East, as a trial to see how the standalone format works in market towns.
“The big drive for us is online,” he added. “As the more mature customer is adapting to tablets, we see this as a big opportunity, both through our own website and our department store partners.”
He said the business has some key appointments over the last 12 months, including former MyWardrobe chief executive David Worby as customer director, who joined in May last year. He plans to replace himself in the chief financial officer role at a later date.