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Debenhams new chief executive to build on brand, differentiated products and ‘broad customer reach’

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Debenhams’ new chief executive says its turnaround strategy will focus on brand, differentiated products and “broad customer reach”.

Stefaan Vansteenkiste, today named as the new leader of the troubled department store, said the business was realistic about the challenges facing it.

“The retail industry faces a challenging environment and everyone at Debenhams acknowledges that,” he said. “But we have a clear plan and Debenhams has a great team of people who are committed to delivering it. I am very excited about Debenhams’ strong prospects and with a restructured balance sheet there is a robust platform from which to build a turnaround, based on Debenhams’ clear brand focus, broad customer reach and differentiated product offer.”

Vansteenkiste joined the company as chief restructuring officer in April, the month that it went into administration and handed control to its lenders. Since then he has been working with the executive team on a new turnaround business plan. HIs experience includes time as a turnaround expert and managing director at professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal as well as previous experience in the role of both chief executive and adviser at retailers and consumer brands including Bally Shoes, Diam International and Intertoys. 

Chairman Terry Duddy will work with Vansteenkiste on the handover before stepping down from the board in September.  Duddy, who previously ran Argos owner the Home Retail Group, joined the Debenhams board in 2015 as a non-executive director, before later taking on the role of executive chairman. He took over as interim chief executive when previous chief executive Sergio Bucher left following the group’s move into administration.

Today Duddy said: “The board welcomes Stefaan’s appointment as CEO. We concluded that he is the right person to take the business forward into the next phase of its recovery. Stefaan has already made a strong contribution since joining Debenhams and has the support of our investor consortium to drive forward our turnaround plan.”

The new turnaround plan follows a Debenhams Redesigned strategy, unveiled in April 2017, which envisaged Debenhams becoming a social shopping destination, using mobile at the centre of the plan that aimed to give shoppers more reasons to come into stores. At the same time it also aimed to make operations more efficient.

In the UK Debenhams, a Leading retailer in IRUK Top500 research, trades online and from 166 stores. But it has already named 22 stores that are to close next year through a CVA.  More are likely to follow.

Around the world it sells via more than 240 stores in 22 countries.

Image courtesy of Debenhams

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