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N Brown chairman and chief executive set to leave

Alan White, chief executive of N Brown and chairman Lord Alliance are set to exit the home shopping group.

Lord Alliance of Manchester will be replaced by former Tesco executive director Andrew Higginson in September.

White, who has been chief executive for 10 years, will also depart the retailer in the second half of 2013.

Lord Alliance, who acquired the business, formerly known as JD Williams, in 1963, remains a major shareholder in the listed company. Higginson, who was group finance and strategy director at Tesco for 11 years before taking on the role of head of retailing services, revealed his retirement from the grocer at the end of last year.

Lord Alliance said: “After over 40 years as chairman of N Brown, I felt the time had come to pass on the role to a new generation which can continue to exploit the potential of multi-channel retailing. We have come a long way from the Manchester mail order business I bought in 1963 and today more than half our sales are online.

“The company is in great shape, and will benefit from an injection of new blood and new ideas. As an ongoing major shareholder and board member I look forward to working with Andrew and to handing over to him the chairmanship of a company which has been so close to my heart for so many years.”

White, who served as group finance director from 1985 to 1999, intends to build a portfolio of non-executive roles. He is currently on the board of Topps Tiles. He intends to stay at N Brown until a replacement is found and settled in the business.

He said: “The company has changed beyond all recognition since I joined in 1985 and it has been an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable journey to get to where we are today. After 25 years service I have taken the very difficult decision to leave the group in 2013 and think about the next stage of my career.”

The announcement comes as the retailer posted like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% in the 17 weeks to June 30. Total sales jumped 2.5%, including those from the stores which the home shopping group launched over the last year.

The retailer said that womenswear sales were lower than expected due to the “unsettled weather” which depressed sales of summer clothing. It said sales and margins were “very strong” in the weeks where there were sunny days. However, menswear, footwear, lingerie and home and leisure product categories all grew over the period.

There was a concentration of demand on value and discounted lines, such as online ‘deals of the day’. Gross margin was hit, falling 1% below expectations, although N Brown expects some improvements over the year as its lower stock levels will result in less discounting.

Non executive director Nigel Alliance OBE, who has been on the board since 1969, is also retiring and Lord Stone of Blackheath is also also stepping down in recognition of the requirements of the UK Corporate Governance Code. Two new appointments are expected to replace the departing non-executives by the end of 2012.

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