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Republic brand manager Preston in shock exit

Republic brand manager Nick Preston has left the branded young fashion business.

Preston, who spearheaded a strategy to introduce key young fashion brands such as G-Star, Henleys and Diesel to Republic during his five-year tenure, left the 105-store business last week. It is unclear whether he has another job to go to.

Preston’s exit has surprised the industry as the strategy has successfully driven sales by attracting customers into stores with its branded offer leading to strong sales of high-margin own label.

This resulted in annual sales of more than £200m in the year to January 31 and led to private equity owner Change Capital putting it up for sale in April. Valuations are expected to come in at two to three times Republic’s £105m valuation in 2005.

Republic chief executive and joint-founder Tim Whitworth said Preston’s departure was by mutual consent and denied it was linked to a senior management restructure four months ago.

In February, joint-founder Carl Brewins took on the newly created role of brand director, responsible for raising Republic’s brand awareness in the UK. At the time, joint-brand manager Guy Daltry was promoted to director of buying and merchandising. Preston remained brand manager, with the ongoing remit to bring brands into the business.
Whitworth said: “Nick was with us for five years and had a wonderful period at Republic. We have exciting plans and Nick has exciting opportunities ahead of him. It was right for both parties.”

Brewins has assumed Preston’s responsibilities while Whitworth seeks a replacement for the position. Preston joined Republic five years ago from department store chain House of Fraser, where he worked in a menswear buying role.

One brand managing director told Drapers that Preston was an integral part of Republic: “When he brought in G-Star, Republic was just offering middle-market ranges and this really added some exciting and different brands.

He added: “It also gave the brand really good exposure. He really reinforced the branded concept and was at the forefront of which brands were hot.”

A branded retail chief said he was surprised that Preston had left but did not think it would derail the sale process or impact the business’s strategy.

He said: “Nick was instrumental in getting brands into Republic on the basis of his great contacts and he is well respected. He helped the business do so well.”
Whitworth said there was no update on Republic’s sale process. Change Capital - which is run by former Marks & Spencer directors Luc Vandevelde and Roger Holmes - bought a majority stake in the business five years ago, while Whitworth and Brewins own more than 40% of shares in the business. The retailer generated EBITDA of more than £30m in the year to January 31.

Whitworth said Preston had various incentive packages linked to the business but declined to give more details. He said of the year ahead: “I want to do more business with the brands we work with and engage with new and exciting brands.” Republic’s own brands include Miso, Crafted and Soul Cal and represent close to two thirds of overall sales.
Preston did not return calls as Drapers went to press.

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