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Will Liberty score under Capello?

Jessica Brown

While it was a bad week for a certain Signor Fabio Capello, who saw England crash out of the World Cup with an embarrassing performance against Germany, another Capello, Marco (coincidentally Fabio’s distant cousin) succeeded in a takeover of another national treasure, London department store Liberty.

While it was a bad week for a certain Signor Fabio Capello, who saw England crash out of the World Cup with an embarrassing performance against Germany, another Capello, Marco (coincidentally Fabio’s distant cousin) succeeded in a takeover of another national treasure, London department store Liberty.

His strategy, while somewhat sketchy, is to capture more tourists and garner more favour with existing customers, and build Liberty’s reputation with directional fashion-oriented shoppers, believing that Liberty has, like the England team, failed to fulfil its potential. Capello insists he will return the business to profit by 2011.

Before he completes his strategic review later this month, there is little meat on the bones as to how that target will be achieved. Liberty remains wildly under-exploited. It is rich in heritage with an unrivalled store environment, yet recent management teams have failed to harness these positives.

Still, according to a report from Verdict Research this week, department stores are generally on the up, having served 2 million extra shoppers this year compared with 2006. The over-55s in particular have been attracted by the introduction of good-quality own-label merchandise.

Separately, the industry lost one of its true gentlemen and genuine talents this week with the death of Nick Samuel, former chief executive of Hobbs and finance director of Karen Millen. Nick had many friends and colleagues in the industry and was highly respected by all. His pretty much annual marathon runs for charity were legendary and he was instrumental in driving Karen Millen to becoming the business it is today. His legacy lives on at Hobbs, which he took from 30 stores in 2002 and grew to more than 100 shops. He will be greatly missed.

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