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New Look’s refinancing prompts rethink over chief executive role

New Look is to review its management structure following its debt refinance as the retailer debates the need for a chief executive under executive chairman Alistair McGeorge.

McGeorge said the search for a chief executive “stalled” as the retailer focused on restructuring its debts, which it confirmed earlier this week.

“Now that’s done, we will decide over the next few weeks whether to continuing looking,” said McGeorge.

The retailer has been without a chief executive since Carl McPhail was ousted in 2011, a month prior to McGeorge’s appointment. Since that time New Look is understood to have held talks with several retailers, including Marks & Spencer general merchandise executive director Kate Bostock, over the top job.

McGeorge said the refinancing – New Look has agreed an extension of all maturities on senior debt until April 2015 – gave the retailer “valuable breathing space” and allowed it to focus on its turnaround. He expects New Look to be back in profit growth this year after posting an EBITDA plummet of £44m to £147m in the year to March 31.

Despite a UK like-for-like fall of 5.7% and a turnover decline of 2% to £1.5bn, McGeorge said he was encouraged by a stronger performance in the second half. He said: “We have a far better structure in the senior management team, the supply chain is better and faster and the pricing structure has been addressed.”

The retailer, which launched an underwear range from model Kelly Brook last month, is continuing to broaden its appeal after its product “went too young”.

McGeorge said: “We’re bringing more [of a range of] product in. We serve customers anywhere from 15 to 45. We’re not about edgy fashion, we’re about clothes that are wearable.”

The retailer is to roll out a store revamp following a trial in four stores earlier this year that brought a double-digit sales jump. New Look is ploughing £25m to £30m into refurbishing 120 stores this year.

It has also confirmed plans to close 50 to 100 stores over the next three to five years in light of its anticipated online growth. Ecommerce sales grew 20% last year and have continued to accelerate in its current financial year.

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