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04 Paul Marchant ***New***

Chief executive, Primark

It’s a cold place standing in the shadows of retail legends like Primark chairman Arthur Ryan and former New Look chairman Phil Wrigley, but Marchant finally felt the sun on his face after he took the reins of the UK’s best-loved value retailer in September 2009.

This is a man with fierce ambitions - the first was to make chief executive of a high street chain and a close second was to finally make the Drapers Top 100 list (no joke) - he has now achieved both in the past 12 months. Industry fears that Marchant wouldn’t fit the somewhat unusual culture at Primark (Ryan allegedly wore his slippers behind his desk) have proved unfounded. In fact, the retailer and its workforce have warmed to Marchant’s way of working. By the same token, Marchant has toned down some of the cheeky chappy behaviour for which he was once known, in what appears to be a two-fingered salute to his critics.

He has made great strides in both product and store presentation. Primark’s denim shop concept is way better than those of its mid-market rivals, while attention to detail and added extras in product (think printed linings, pocket trims, free belts on trousers) put its competitors to shame. Marchant’s great eye for product means Primark got on the heritage trend bandwagon early too, so it’s no wonder like-for-like sales continue to soar.

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