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Womenswear chains boost senior teams

Mainstream womenswear multiples New Look and Wallis are beefing up their management as they attempt to hold on to sales in a worsening economic environment.

New Look has hired former Primark buying director of women’s clothing Jane Eskriett as buying director of women’s clothing in an attempt to fight back against the value multiple which has encroached on its territory.

Eskriett is to oversee New Look’s expanding women’s ranges and the development of its petite, tall and plus-size sub-brands. Eskriett, who until recently was buying director for footwear and accessories at Primark, joined New Look this week and will report into buying merchandising and design director of women’s clothing Roger Wightman.

Chief executive Phil Wrigley said: “Jane’s appointment is about unifying the clothing offer, which is quite diverse now and we have to keep an eye on all of the collections and handwriting.”

Meanwhile, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia-owned chain Wallis has drafted in three new senior executives to help differentiate its offer and ready the chain for a bloody battle in the middle market.

David Harris has joined as creative director. He was at Laura Ashley in the same position for eight years. Clive Reeve has joined the 200-store womenswear chain from Oasis as head of design, and Delia Philips has started in the new role of head of buying for non-clothing and petites.
This week the British Retail Consortium said clothing sales in March had been the worst for eight years and sales at H&M slumped 8% like for like during the month, illustrating just how difficult trading has been.

Middle-market womenswear retailers have been some of the hardest hit as women cut back their spending in the uncertain economic climate.
Wrigley said: “Trade is really challenging at the moment because of the comparisons against last year. We won’t be able to see the true consumer picture until after May or June. We are concentrating on the fundamentals.

New Look will unveil a new concept store in the Liverpool One scheme in June.

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