Yesterday morning, new Debenhams boss Sergio Bucher unveiled his vision – Debenhams Redesigned – for the retailer’s next five years.
The hunt for the new Debenhams boss was a lengthy process and Bucher was considered a left-field choice by many.
But yesterday, after nine months of radio silence, it became crystal clear why Sir Ian Cheshire plucked Bucher out of Amazon to run the department store chain.
Bucher does not pull his punches and, crucially, brings a fresh perspective to a retailer which, in a tired marketplace where department stores are getting battered, was looking exhausted.
His plans are wide-reaching and his style refreshingly candid for a listed retailer.
Decisions based on fact not opinion
He describes himself as a lover of “structure and numbers” but is also clearly creative and brimming with ideas. This has resulted in both a forensic analysis and a torrent of new plans.
And he has not shied away from labelling the old Debenhams management style, under his predecessor Michael Sharp, as driven by opinion rather than fact, and as top-down and stale.
While he neglected to be all that candid when answering Retail Week’s question about why customer service at Debenhams has sunk to such abysmal levels, he is upfront about what he is going to do about it.
Tellingly, customer service metrics have not made their way onto the shopfloor KPIs yet. But Bucher will ensure they soon will.
“His presentation to journalists used to the breezy confidence of Sir Charlie Mayfield and the direct approach of Lord Wolfson was read verbatim from an iPad”
But for all his strengths, Bucher is not a confident showman. His presentation to journalists used to the breezy confidence of Sir Charlie Mayfield and the direct approach of Lord Wolfson was read verbatim from an iPad for around half an hour.
Whether this is a hangover from his press-averse Amazon days, or whether he has yet to build the confidence to go off-script, it didn’t serve him well.
Once the narration was through, however, Bucher was proficient in fending off a pack of, by then bored, journalists. Not afraid to show his irritation or be combative, at times he displayed his frustration at being plagued by questions not to his liking.
While Bucher is packed full of ideas, he is just as keen to execute them. And while he discusses his plans personably and engagingly one-on-one, he is not keen on the storytelling rhetoric around his grand plan.
Luckily for him, Sir Ian Cheshire is statesman-like enough for the both of them.
Although many of the plans are still in their infancy, Bucher’s ambition to revolutionise Debenhams is clear. “I know the most creative ideas come from a relentless focus on execution,” he said today.
You can bet life at Debenhams will be very different from now on.