Fenwick has launched a consultation with “a significant number” of its staff as new boss Robbie Feather restructures the business, Retail Week can reveal.
The department store chain is moving away from its current “single store ownership” to a “group ownership” model, led by a central team of executive directors spanning buying, marketing, IT, finance and human resources.
Fenwick chief executive Feather, who became the retailer’s first boss from outside the founding family after joining from Sainsbury’s Argos in January, said the changes would impact “most functions of the business”.
He admitted that, as a result, “a significant number of our colleagues are going to be facing lots of uncertainty and change over the next few months”.
However, Fenwick would not be drawn on how many of its 2,200 employees would be involved in the consultation, or whether the process would result in redundancies.
Fenwick executives informed staff at each of its nine stores about the proposed changes this morning. The consultation is expected to run until the end of August.
Feather told Retail Week: “We are looking at process as well as structure, so our shift here is much more significant than perhaps what other groups are doing. We are fundamentally changing the way we run our business as opposed to what I think is going on elsewhere, which is streamlining.
“We really need to get into the nitty-gritty with store management teams to understand how we operate under the new process.
“Only by going through that consultation will we be able to ascertain exactly the right structure and the number of colleagues we need to operate in that structure.
“The biggest thing in the coming weeks is that we do everything right by our colleagues. The main thing on our minds is looking after them throughout this process.”
Feather insisted that, despite the changes, Fenwick would “keep management in our shops and not in an ivory tower somewhere”.
The retailer’s executives and buying teams will work from offices above its stores, including those in Newcastle, Kingston and London’s Bond Street, in order to maintain and enhance the “local edits” it provides customers across its estate.
Details of the changes emerged as Fenwick revealed the appointment of Pablo Sueiras as retail operations director.
Sueiras, who spent six years at River Island and seven years in House of Fraser’s buying and merchandising teams, joins Fenwick from Diesel, where he has served as European retail director for the past 18 months.
Feather said Sueiras’ appointment, which comes just weeks after Fenwick poached John Lewis’ Jeremy Collins as its new property director, completed his new-look executive team.
“We genuinely have got a fantastic team,” Feather said. “I’ve worked in a lot of big retail teams in grocery and department stores and I think we punch way above our weight with the team we’ve got here at Fenwick.
“I really think we are at the start of an exciting time for the business. We are going to have to make some tough decisions, but there are also a lot of positives in there for our colleagues, as well in terms of the investment in the business going forward from the family.”