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UK retailer Debenhams turns to Amazon for its new CEO

May 26, 2016 10:36 AM
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(Bloomberg)—Debenhams Plc, the struggling U.K. department-store chain, named Amazon.com Inc. fashion executive Sergio Bucher as its new chief executive officer. Debenham’s is No. 33 in the soon-to-be-released Internet Retailer 2016 Europe 500.

Bucher will join in October, replacing Michael Sharp, who announced his departure last autumn and will leave the retailer’s board in June, the company said Thursday. Bucher spent the last three years at Amazon.com, where he was vice president of Amazon Fashion Europe, and previously worked at sportswear maker Puma. He also led Inditex SA’s creation of the Oysho lingerie brand.

“His background in e-commerce and multichannel retailing is clearly well suited to the immediate challenges facing Debenhams,” wrote John Stevenson and Jonathan Pritchard, analysts at Peel Hunt.

Bucher will need to improve upon the record of his predecessor, who struggled to arrest falling earnings in his five years at the helm. Recruiting from Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide and the 2015 Europe 500, illustrates the increasing importance of online sales and distribution for British retail chains. Amazon’s fashion unit has grown in recent years, challenging traditional apparel merchants by offering well-known brands like Gap Inc. as well as its own private-label styles.

Debenhams shares rose as much as 2.6% and traded 1.4% higher at 74.80 pence as of 8:12 a.m. in London. They have fallen 21% over the past 12 months, pushing the company’s market value below 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion). The retailer sells from 253 locations across 27 countries, with about 160 of them in the U.K. Less than one-fifth of its sales are from online, according to its website.

 

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