The Business On... Julia Reynolds, CEO designate, Blacks Leisure


All change in the world of tents?

Indeed. Current chief executive Neil Gillis said in February he intended to step down. Yesterday, Blacks revealed he is to be replaced, a little later this year, by Ms Reynolds, who currently runs Figleaves, the lingerie website.



That sounds like quite a big promotion?

In some ways it is. Blacks Leisure is a FTSE 250-listed company while Figleaves is a subsidiary of a larger company – it was bought by N Brown last year. On the other hand, Blacks is really struggling; it has been losing money for ages and two years ago closed almost 90 stores after a company voluntary agreement – one step short of an administration – with its landlords.



So can Ms Reynolds turn things around at Blacks?

She's certainly well-respected. She's worked at Topshop and Burton Group, but made her name at Tesco where she enjoyed a long and successful career that included the creation of the supermarket's Florence & Fred clothing range, which became a huge hit. By the time she quit the grocer in 2008, Ms Reynolds was the company's most senior female executive.



Why did she leave?

Ms Reynolds said at the time she felt burned out. She was also less than complimentary about some of the blokes she worked at with Tesco – "I'd just had my fill of chest-beating alpha males," she told one interviewer adding that her lack of work-life balance was getting her down. Still, it was a profitable move – when Figleaves was sold, Ms Reynolds pocketed a tidy sum.



And what will she do at Blacks?

Hopefully drive the same increase in sales that Figleaves has achieved under her leadership. Shareholders are optimistic – Black's stock rose sharply on her appointment yesterday. One worry might be that her experience is in fashion and Black's adventures in this area, rather than its core outdoors products, have caused it endless problems. Still, she's a keen skier, too, so that side of the business is not totally new to her.

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