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Ruis exit leaves question marks at Jigsaw

Jigsaw CEO Peter Ruis’s departure heralds an uncertain future for the womenswear retailer as it prepares to update the market on a sale of a stake in the business, industry sources have suggested. 

Drapers revealed that Ruis left Jigsaw on 5 March. Jigsaw chairman Charles Atterton will return to an executive role, as executive chairman. Atterton was joint CEO with Jigsaw founder John Robinson from 1997 until 2013 – the year Ruis joined from John Lewis and was tasked with reviving the business

“Peter has had an enormous impact on Jigsaw,” said one retail analyst. “He transformed the brand and made it relevant. It’s a big loss for the business – he is very talented.

“The question now is what the new ownership and structure is going to look like, and to what extent it will impinge on the company’s trading stance. The brand integrity was very much Peter’s vision, and part of that vision has walked out of the door with him.”

Lucy Harris, a partner at executive search firm Clarity Search, who placed Ruis at John Lewis in 2005, said: “I think he has done a terrific job [at Jigsaw] and he leaves with his head held high. He understood the customer and has completely re-engineered how the business looked to its consumer, how it embraced digital and brought new product categories into play.”

She added that Ruis put Jigsaw sister boutique The Shop at Bluebird on the map, and led the chain to “significant success internationally”: “He drove its full-price strategy and made it a real brand with significant cross-channel presence. He weathered the business through a difficult time and still came out as a winner in the industry. It’ll be exciting to see what he does next.”

Another recruitment source predicted that Ruis will “undoubtedly” stay in retail, adding: “I don’t think it’s good news for Jigsaw and I’m not sure anyone would think it is.”

Another headhunter said: “I think it’s going to be very sad – Peter was a major driving force behind the business. It will be interesting to see what direction Jigsaw goes in now. He and Richard [Gilmore, former chief operating officer who departed in January] were a team that made it positive in a very difficult market.

“I think Ruis will make a positive difference wherever he goes – I imagine he will be quite sought after. He has a damn good eye – he understands the customer and about creating a product she will buy.”

Robinson, Jigsaw’s founder and controlling shareholder, appointed KPMG last year to explore options for the retailer’s future. An update is expected later this week. 

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