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Burberry's Bailey moves on after 17 years driving digital transformation

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Christopher Bailey is to move on from Burberry after 17 years helping to drive transformation at the luxury brand, including its move to digital.

Bailey, who joined Burberry, a Top350 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, in 2001, is to leave at the end of 2018 and says he will be pursuing new creative projects.

Burberry today said Bailey had been a "driving force behind Burberry's transformation", through a period in which it grew "from a small licensed outerwear business to become one of the world's largest and most admired global luxury brands". Over his years as chief creative officer, Burberry has focused on digital leadership, bringing the benefits of omnichannel retail to a luxury audience. Innovations have included its use of social media in markets around the world, including in-Tweet buying and partnerships with platforms including Snapchat and Wei Chat, the single view of stock that enables staff to fulfil an order from any other store or Burberry warehouse, and the use of data to deliver insights into customer behaviour.

Having succeeded Angela Ahrendts in 2014, adding the role of chief executive to his existing one of chief creative officer, he has since been succeeded as chief executive by Marco Gobbetti.

Today Bailey said that Burberry's best days were still ahead of it. "Burberry encapsulates so much of what is great about Britain," he said. "As an organisation, it is creative, innovative and outward looking. It celebrates diversity and challenges received wisdoms. It is over 160 years old, but it has a young spirit. It is part of the establishment, but it is always changing, and always learning. It has been a truly inspiring place to work and the decision to leave was not an easy one. I do truly believe, however, that Burberry's best days are still ahead of her and that the company will go from strength to strength with the strategy we have developed and the exceptional talent we have in place led by Marco."

Gobbetti said: "Burberry has undergone an incredible transformation since 2001 and Christopher has been instrumental to the Company's success in that period. While I am sad not to have the opportunity to partner with him for longer, the legacy he leaves and the exceptional talent we have at Burberry give me enormous confidence in our future. We have a clear vision for the next chapter to accelerate the growth and success of the Burberry brand and I am excited about the opportunity ahead for our teams, our partners and our shareholders."

Sir John Peace, chairman, said: "Christopher is a unique talent and an exceptional person and I would like to thank him personally for his part in transforming Burberry. He has been a great partner to me and he leaves the Company in the very best of hands, with a strong team and culture in place, led by Marco as CEO. I have total confidence that Marco's vision and leadership, with the excellent management team in place, will keep Burberry on the forefront creatively, digitally and financially, creating further value for shareholders in the next exciting stage of our evolution."

Commenting on the news, Charlotte Pearce, retail analyst at GlobalData, said: "Since becoming creative director in 2004, Bailey has contributed to total revenue growth of £2bn and has helped to regenerate the brand, turning it back into the aspirational, iconic label that it once was. Under Bailey’s influence as chief creative officer and CEO latterly in his Burberry career, he modernised the brand with its continued focus on innovation, digital and shopper experience, which will support future growth.

"With just over a year until Bailey leaves, there is plenty of time for Marco Gobbetti, who took over as CEO in July, to find the right candidate to fill Bailey’s shoes. It is crucial that Burberry finds someone with respect for the brand’s British heritage but is able to further evolve the label creatively and bring it into a new era."
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