Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman is to retire later this year and hand the reins to his deputy, Michael Sharp.
Templeman, who has led Debenhams for eight years, will continue as a consultant to the department store group for up to a year after his retirement at the end of this financial year. Sharp will formally take over on September 5.
Profits rise 4.5%
News of the management succession came as Debenhams posted interim results showing headline pre-tax profit before exceptionals up 4.5% to £129.2m in the 26 weeks to February 26. Group gross transaction value – which includes sales from concessions and the performance from Danish department store Magasin du Nord – rose 3.2% to £1.46bn and like-for likes, excluding VAT, fell 1.5%. Group gross margin rose 20 basis points, driven by stronger own bought sales and good markdown management.
“I will remain fully engaged in managing the business until I pass on the baton to Michael and look forward to continuing my involvement for another year after that as Michael and the board see fit.”
Debenhams chief executive Rob Templeman
Debenhams chairman Nigel Northridge said: “Rob Templeman has made a huge contribution to Debenhams over the past eight years and the board is grateful for the leadership he continues to show.
“We are delighted that Michael Sharp will succeed Rob, which will ensure contunuity of management and strategy. Michael’s commitment to and knowledge of Debenhams are second to none and he has played a key role in managing the business at the highest level.”
Templeman said: “I will remain fully engaged in managing the business until I pass on the baton to Michael and look forward to continuing my involvement for another year after that as Michael and the board see fit.”
Sharp’s knowledge ‘second to none’
Sharp became group trading director of Debenhams in 1997, chief operating officer in 2004 and deputy chief executive in 2008. He began his career at the Burton Group where he held positions including buying and merchandising director at Top Man, Topshop and Debenhams’ womenswear. In 1996 he became managing director of Principles and of Racing Green the following year.
Templeman said he was pleased with Debenhams’ first-half performance. The retailer has delivered six consecutive halves of profit growth despite tough high street conditions.
Input costs to fall?
He said: “The trading environment has been difficult but our focus on profit and cash generation has continued to deliver returns. Looking forward, there are some encouraging signs that commodity prices such as cotton may fall, which could be good for both consumers and retailers in terms of pricing.”
He added that in the shorter term the business was planning for “no real change in consumer confidence”.
Market share gains
The department store recorded market share gains in women’s casualwear, up by 50 basis points, and kidswear, a 20 basis points rise, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel for the 24 weeks to February 20. Total fashion market share was maintained with menswear and womenswear “stable”.
Debenhams attributed its performance to strong growth from own-bought ranges and has extended its Designers At range with three launches, the up-and-coming designers’ collective Edition, the younger fashion brand Diamond by Julien Macdonald and J Jeans by Caspar Conran. Sales of Designers At ranges rose 5.7%.
Own bought sales accounted for 82.1% of sales during the half.
Sales at Debenhams Direct rose 82.4%.Templeman said that building a strong multi-channel business, alongside its store refurbishment programme would benefit the retailer during tougher times and when the environment improves.