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Ex-Coast boss joins Damsel in a Dress

Premium womenswear brand Damsel in a Dress has appointed Sian Hession, former Long Tall Sally chief executive and Coast retail director, as retail strategist.

Hession will focus on growing department store distribution and plans to expand into more branches of department store chain Fenwick while adding new stockists such as Brown Thomas in the Republic of Ireland to its stockist base. The brand will also investigate opening concessions.

It is already stocked in 26 branches of John Lewis and on www.johnlewis.com.

Damsel in a Dress has recorded solid growth since it was launched in February 2010 by Marshall Doctors and Amanda Seabourne, directors of high street supply business Amanda Marshall. For the first 16 weeks of the spring 11 season, like-for-like sales of the brand rose 32%.

Hession, who most recently has been consulting for businesses including Karen Millen and the Disney Store, said: “It is great to work with brands when they are growing. I think it is about growing and working with the existing stockists rather than adding lots and lots of new stockists.”

In February, the brand launched its own transactional website, www.damselinadress.co.uk, which is already its third best-performing outlet behind JohnLewis.com and John Lewis on Oxford Street.

Hession spent six years as retail director for occasionwear chain Coast before moving to niche multichannel business Long Tall Sally as chief executive, and then took a career break in 2007.

Doctors said: “As we are a manufacturer our investment into retail is going to be gradual. We want to grow our business and our website and when we have made enough money doing that, we will look to invest in standalone stores.”

The brand is also stocked in Fenwick in Canterbury, Bentalls in Kingston-upon-Thames and 20 independents including contemporary womenswear indie Lounge of Lewes in East Sussex and mainstream womenswear indie Elizabeth Rose in Tenterden, Kent.

The Damsel in a Dress collection is designed by Alison Mansell, creator of the headline-grabbing grey polka-dot Marks & Spencer dress worn by Samantha Cameron. Prices range from £31 to £76 at wholesale and £89 to £229 at retail.

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