The Business On: Michael Sharp, Chief executive, Debenhams
Tuesday 06 September 2011
Will life be fabulous under Mr Sharp?
We'll see. The new Debenhams boss couldn't have taken over at a tougher time, with consumers being squeezed by rising inflation and taxes. It might take more than gaudy slogans and even the 25 per cent off in every department the chain currently has emblazoned across its website to revive shares that have fallen by more than 25 per cent this year.
He'll need to be Sharp as a knife then
I should say. But Mr Sharp does at least know the business – he's a 26-year veteran of Debs who had been working closely with his predecessor Rob Templeman as deputy chief executive before taking the top job (he's always been at his boss's right hand during results presentations). During his long career with the company he's been through a recession or two.
He'll have survived a lot of cuts then
Debs has had something of a turbulent few years. Mr Sharp lived through the stewardship of Belinda Earl, who was appointed in 2000, two years after the company's demerger from Burtons, before the business was again taken off the market by a private equity consortium. Debenhams' return in 2006 was less than successful. Mr Sharp also survived Angela Spindler, the former head of George at Asda. Some had tipped her to succeed Mr Templeman. She lasted just nine months.
What's he like?
Rather low profile. There are a lot of big egos in retail, but Mr Sharp has said he's not one of them. And he's given just one interview in 30 years of retailing. That'll have to change, given the attention bosses of big and famous retail chains get. His career also includes stints in buying at Topshop, Topman and Burton and he's run Principles and Racing Green.
And what's he going to do?
He's been talking about "evolution" rather than "revolution". But he's also talked about "trading aggressively" and you can expect more of the splashy promotions mentioned above because "that's what consumers want".
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