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Sarah Curran joins French Connection as it reduces losses

French Connection has shrunk its losses for the first half of the year, and brought in former Very Exclusive managing director Sarah Curran as a non-executive director.

Drapers exclusively revealed in July that Curran planned to leave Very Exclusive, the Shop Direct owned premium etailer she helped to launch in 2015. At French Connection, she will chair the remuneration committee and become a member of the audit committee.

Former Moss Bros chief financial officer Robin Piggott is also joining the French Connection board. He will chair the audit committee and join the remuneration committee. Curran and Piggott replace former non-executive directors Claire Kent and Dean Murray.

French Connection reportedly began seeking two new non-executive directors at the beginning of the year, following pressure from investors at US fund Gatemore Capital over its corporate governance.

Murray and Kent had both sat on the board for around nine years, which is at odds with best practice for independent directors. Meanwhile, Stephen Marks is both chairman and chief executive of French Connection, in contravention of corporate governance guidelines.

The new board appointments come as French Connection reported that its group revenue dipped by 1.6% to £68.1m for the six months to 31 July, down 4.2% on a constant currency basis.

The retailer said improvement in wholesale revenue, which grew 7.2%, was “offset by a reduced store portfolio”.

However, its retail business has reduced its operating loss by 18.3%. It made a group operating loss before tax of £5.7m, compared with £7.9m the previous year.

Marks said: “We have definitely seen momentum build in the first half of the new financial year with improvements across all the divisions despite difficult trading conditions.

“With full-price sales in retail up during the early part of the second half, combined with the strong winter 17 order books in wholesale and very strong reaction to the spring 18 collection, I am confident that we will see a good performance during the rest of the year.

“We have been working with the goal of returning the group to profitability as soon as possible and, while there is still much to do, I believe we have made significant steps to achieve that in the near future.”

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