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15 Michael Sharp ***New***

Deputy chief executive, Debenhams

Michael Sharp may be the quiet man of fashion retail - he famously shuns publicity - but he is also one of the most driven. In 2010 he led Debenhams’ acquisition of footwear chain Faith, preventing the much-loved retail name from disappearing after it collapsed into administration. Sharp cut a canny deal to leave Faith’s stores behind, take its stock and trade the name as an own label.

Sharp has established himself as a key architect of Debenhams’ successful margin-boosting own-label strategy, which also includes Principles by Ben de Lisi and H! by Henry Holland. The approach has garnered Debenhams valuable fashion cachet, given it a point of difference and grown margins. Total operating profits grew 7.1% to £196.1m in the year to August 28, while sales of its Designers At ranges outstripped all other departments to grow 15% to £497.7m. No mean feat in a downturn.

Sharp is also keeping an eye on how to move own brand on for 2011, and in October confirmed a new collection called Editions, which will house ranges from a changing stable of edgy labels such as Roksanda Ilincic and is due to launch in spring 11. Sharp is also a key proponent of Debenhams’ successful price promotions which - while they might cause a giant headache for other retailers - certainly loosen shoppers’ purse strings and drive turnover growth. No wonder Sharp is tipped as chief executive Rob Templeman’s successor.

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