Tesco has appointed Terry Green to head its booming clothing business less than nine months after the former chief executive of Allders presided over the collapse of the department store chain.
The move signals Tesco's determination to take on the rest of the high street, coming in the week it has opened its first non-food store, Tesco Homeplus. The appointment reunites Mr Green with John Hoerner, his former boss at Burton Group who ran the division until he stepped aside to oversee a clothing push into Tesco's European stores.
Mr Green, who joins in mid-October, will not sit on the main board so the terms of his contract were not disclosed. As well as Allders, he has also run Bhs, Debenhams and Topshop.
Asked whether Tesco's clothing lines would ever pose a threat to Philip Green, his mentor at Bhs, Terry Green (no relation) said: "I don't know about that. We'll see. Everybody is a target." He added: "In many ways Tesco's clothing business is quite embryonic. It's got lots of opportunity." He commended the "broad appeal" of Tesco's three clothing labels - Florence & Fred, Cherokee and Value, which span high fashion, such as lookalike Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses, even down to the print, and vest tops for £1.50.
Despite Tesco's ambitions to be a general merchandise retailer, the supermarket chain is cagey about detailing the exact performance of its non-food lines. Last week it said it sold 20 per cent more fashion items in the first half, building on the division's £700m sales contribution last year, a 28 per cent rise.
The group has followed the lead set by Asda and is trialling two stand-alone non-food stores. Tesco Homeplus opened in Denton, near Manchester, on Monday and a second will follow in Aberdeen. Mr Green said Tesco had not shown any interest in his role at Allders, which collapsed with a £60m pension deficit. "They never asked me but I explained what I thought about it anyway," he said. "The business was improving in trading terms. Our work was beginning to pay off but the banks lost their nerve and pulled the plug. In my view they shouldn't have done that. We were getting there."
Mr Green and Phil Cox, his commercial director, lost their £250,000 investment, while 3,500 people lost their pensions.
A spokesman for Tesco said he "wouldn't want to comment" on Mr Green's history with Allders, adding: "We're looking forward. We're hired him for his experience in fashion retail."
Richard Brasher, the commercial and trading director, said Mr Green and Mr Hoerner's combined expertise would "ensure our growth continues in the UK and increasingly in our overseas markets".
Tesco's full clothing range is stocked only in its 100 biggest Extra stores.Reuse content