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Can ‘1000 new designs’ save Superdry as board resigns and founder takes over?

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While the entire board of Superdry – bar the company secretary – have resigned following a shareholder putsch to reinstate founder Julian Dunkerton, his ex-business partner and ex-chief designer James Holder, says he has “1000 new designs ready to go”. But is that enough?

Dunkerton and Holder founded SuperDry in 2003 on the back of some iconic designs featuring faux Japanese text. Now Holder, creator of these designs, claims to have many new ones ready to go and that now that the old board is out the way, the path is clear for a SuperDry rebirth.

The retailer, once the doyen of High Street fashion, has suffered repeated profit warnings and waning consumer interest since Dunkerton quit on 31 March 2018, but has waged a six month battle with shareholders and the board to rejoin following a crash in profits since his departure.

At a shareholder meeting this week, he was narrowly voted back onto the board, prompting everyone else to resign, effective in May.

Dunkerton is joined on the new board by Holder and Peter Williams, the former Selfridges chief executive and ex-chairman of Boohoo. With the resignation of the board, these three have also taken on the roles of chief exec, chief designer and chairman respectively.

But has SuperDry missed its chance? The brand is in need of a revamp and its product range has become tired and pedestrian, however while it has been languishing in in what Dunkerton described as a “misguided consultant-led business model”, High Street fashion sales have been hammered by the web.

Is revamping and refreshing the brand and lines enough for the retailer to stay in the game? Dunkerton started his ‘comeback’ last year objecting to the then management’s strategy of stocking fewer items online and in-store, as well as focussing less on its iconic hoodies and coats and more on other lines.

Now he is likely to try and reverse this, looking to stock more online, to help drive sales there.

However, According to Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO at Savvy, the new team will have its work cut out. She says: “So all change at Superdry this afternoon as everyone bar the company secretary resigns this afternoon. This leaves Julian Dunkerton with just what he wanted – the phrase be careful what you wish for comes to mind. This is a difficult time for Superdry with consumer confidence really wobbly and the future looking unclear. This combined with an ambivalent attitude to the brand from shoppers and the continued shift to online means that the challenge to win back shoppers and create a positive attitude to the brand will need some magic, luck and a stack of hard work. Let’s hope that Mr Dunkerton has all three in equal measure.” 

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