Fashion and homewares specialist Cath Kidston has appointed former Habitat chief executive Mark Saunders as managing director and reported strong Christmas trading.

Saunders takes up the Cath Kidston role with immediate effect and replaces Paul Spinks, who joined in 2008 as operations director and is leaving to pursue other interests.

Cath Kidston achieved retail sales growth of 52% in the seven weeks to January 2, when like-for-likes surged 20%.

Chairman Paul Mason, the former Asda, Levi’s and Somerfield boss who joined Cath Kidston last year, said: “As this performance demonstrates, Cath Kidston is a business with considerable growth potential – both in the UK and internationally – and Mark has the experience to and the vision to deliver it.”

Private equity firm TA Associates bought a majority stake in Cath Kidston, famous for its distinctive British design, in April last year in a deal valuing it at £100m.

The retailer has 32 shops in the UK and is expanding internationally in markets such as Dubai and Japan.