Rob Templeman, chief executive of Debenhams, the department store chain, is to retire in September, handing over to long-standing deputy chief executive Michael Sharp.
Mr Templeman, who was picked by private equity owners CVC and TPG in 2006 to prepare the group for a stock market listing, said he would remain as a consultant for up to one year after his retirement.
However, he denied he was planning a return to private equity. “I genuinely have no plans, but I’ve spent half of my career working in the public markets and half in private equity,” he said.
Mr Templeman said he would not be taking a full-time role at private equity-owned Gala Coral, where he is non-executive chairman, and did not plan to sell his 1 per cent shareholding in Debenhams.
“[Michael] is the natural successor and he knows the business inside and out,” he added.
Mr Sharp, 54, has worked with Mr Templeman throughout his eight years as chief executive, having worked for Debenhams and the Burton Group since 1985. He said his strategy for the business would be “evolution, not revolution”.
Reporting a sixth consecutive half of pre-tax profit growth with its latest interim results on Thursday, the company reinstated its dividend after a two-year suspension.
In the six months to February 26, UK like-for-like sales excluding value added tax fell 1.5 per cent.
However, Debenhams managed to increase its gross margin by 20 basis points, aided by the prevalence of higher-margin own brands, and a strong performance from Magasin du Nord, its Scandinavian department store chain.
Profits rose 4 per cent to £125.3m, excluding exceptional items, and an interim dividend of 1p is declared.
Mr Templeman said cost prices had increased 8 per cent in the period, thanks to the higher cotton price, though only about half of that rise had been passed on to customers.
Debenhams expects “no real change” in consumer confidence. Mr Templeman said: “The consumer psyche has moved from ‘I want one of those’ to ‘I need one of those.’?”
Retail analysts welcomed news of the changeover, with many describing Mr Sharp as a “safe pair of hands” for the business.
Source : Financial Times