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TJ Hughes new boss announced as Tennant steps down

TJ Hughes chief executive Sue Tennant will leave the discount department store at the end of the year, five months after private equity backers Silverfleet pulled a sale of the business.

Tennant, who joined TJ Hughes in 2007 following stints at furnishings chain Rosebys and value chain Ethel Austin, will be replaced by Beatrice Lafon. Lafon was chief executive of Dutch value chain The Etam Group for two years until July 2010 and will join TJ Hughes in January.

Prior to that Lafon was commerical director of Woolworths for an interim period in 2006 and she began her career in buying and merchandising roles at Marks & Spencer, The Burton Group and River Island.

Silverfleet, which acquired the 56-store TJ Hughes business in November 2003 as part of a management buyout worth £56m, pulled a £70m sale of the business in June after failing to reach the asking price. At the time the decision was attributed to market conditions and sources said it was not a reflection on the discount department store’s trading performance.

Tennant, who was bought in to TJ Hughes on a short term contract to turn the business around and asked to stay on by Silverfleet after two years, told Drapers that she had decided to leave the department store following the failed sale and after successfully boosting profits at the store.

Tennant, who was previously at TJ Hughes for 11 years until she joined Ethel Austin in 2000, had overseen the roll out of new stores and the development of the department store’s online offer. Profits at TJ Hughes rose by 29% to £6.8m in the year to January 30, 2010. Sales increased by 2% to £266.7m during the period.

Separately, Silverfleet is understood to be through to the second round of bids for footwear retailer Office, which is owned by entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital investment vehicle.

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