The number of retail CEOs changing roles has spiked over the past year as the weak pound and narrow margins continue to put pressure on the high street.
Recruitment firm Korn Ferry’s annual Retail CEO Tracker found there were 50 changes of chief executives in 2017, compared to 41 the year before. Top level industry moves are at the highest since 2012, when 56 CEOs left their roles. Half of the retail bosses who left their posts in 2017 had been in their respective posts for four years or less, according to the report.
New Look, Topshop and Shop Direct are among the retailers to have seen change at the top over the past 12 months. The Arcadia Group appointed Paul Price, former chief merchandising officer at Burberry, to lead Topshop/Topman in July. New Look chief executive Anders Kristiansen left the high street retailer after five years in the job in September 2017 and former Shop Direct group chief executive Alex Baldock announced his plans to leave the etailer last October.
Sarah Lim, managing director for Retail EMEA at Korn Ferry said: “Chopping and changing leadership directly affects the performance of Britain’s retailers. When a new CEO arrives, they come with their own vision. These short tenures create instability and are not long enough to embed a sustainable transformation plan.
“Retailers are going through major transition, reducing stores, developing mobile, online and other channels to market, whilst fighting pure-play online competitors with lower overheads. Successful turnaround takes time and coupled with the economic and political instability triggered by Brexit, it’s unsurprising that many retailers are struggling with profitability.”
Korn Ferry also found that 28% of retailer leaders were appointed from longstanding positions in retail operations and general management, representing retailer’s desire for experience.
Lim added: “The trend for hiring CEOs from operations symbolises the appeal of those with a pedigree in running retail businesses – these are seasoned operators with demonstrable track records. Boards and shareholders want greater assurance that people know their stuff, can land the strategy quickly and improve returns.”