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Templeman exits Debenhams as Sharp takes over the hot seat

Rob Templeman formally hands over the reins at department store group Debenhams on Monday, when he will be succeeded as chief executive by Michael Sharp.

Templeman stands down after eight years running the retailer, first under private equity ownership and then as a public company. During this time Debenhams increased sales, profits and store numbers, as well as expanding internationally and online.

Seymour Pierce analyst Kate Calvert said Templeman had done a good job. “Debenhams today, versus when he took it on, is much stronger operationally and in its brand positioning.

“At the time he took it over, people were talking about the nail in the coffin for department stores. He’s re-established it and rebuilt the brand through exploiting the Designers at Debenhams strategy.”

Despite the improvements made, Debenhams shares have not performed as hoped since its IPO in 2006.

The retailer floated at 195p per share and was this week trading at 52.9p. Calvert said the retailer had been a poor public company investment, despite the operational transformation made.

Templeman will not entirely cut his ties with retail when he stands down. He will remain as a consultant to Debenhams for up to a year and become chairman of industry body the British Retail Consortium in October. And some observers believe he could become involved in more retail deals in future.

Debenhams veteran Sharp was promoted from chief operating officer to deputy chief executive in November 2008. Peel Hunt analyst John Stevenson is confident that Debenhams will continue to perform under Sharp’s leadership.

“He’s been a champion of the current strategy and it would be surprising to see much change in direction,” said Stevenson.

Despite the difficult trading climate, Stevenson expects profit growth this year and next from Debenhams, which issues a trading update on September 20.

“In terms of overall performance, the middle market has proved pretty robust,” he said.

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