Sebastian James is taking the helm at Dixons as John Browett leaves for Apple.
Dixons chief executive-in-waiting Sebastian James, who succeeds John Browett later this month, has pledged to drive the business forward by leveraging its growing service credentials under his leadership.
James said that the transformation of Dixons initiated by Browett is not over and continued improvement will cement the Currys and PC World-owner’s leadership in electricals retail.
James, at present group operations director and who as transformation director worked closely with Browett to implement Dixons’ renewal and transformation plan including store overhauls, said: “Our journey is only partly complete. We have a lot more to do in driving the experience to be materially different to everybody else.”
He said that Dixons is now “absolutely customer-focused” and its growing reputation for service will continue to pay dividends. “Service is the differentiator – that’s our key belief,” he said.
The highly regarded Browett is leaving Dixons to join Apple in California as its senior vice-president of retail. His departure prompted fears among some observers about the likely impact.
However, James and Katie Bickerstaffe – who led the launch of Dixons’ Knowhow service business and has been promoted to the new role of UK and Ireland chief executive – have both been at the retailer since 2008, offering a degree of stability.
Investec analyst David Jeary said Browett’s departure might hit investor sentiment but he rates James and Bickerstaffe highly.
He said: “We understand that the board had already carried out external benchmarking as part of its succession plans and decided that internal candidates would provide the best solution, as well as continuity.”
Browett will step down from Dixons’ board on February 20 and leave the retailer on April 20.
He joined in 2007 and his strategy enabled Dixons to see off Best Buy – which has abandoned its attempt to break into the UK market – and outperform arch-rival Comet which is to be formally sold today for £2 to investment firm OpCapita.
Dixons outperformed Comet over Christmas. Under OpCapita’s ownership, former Dixons chief executive John Clare will become chairman of Comet and will play a key role in attempts to revive it alongside managing director Bob Darke.
Dixons’ new leader is the son of hereditary peer Lord Northbourne but known simply as Seb to his friends and colleagues.
He may have aristocratic origins but he has no airs and graces and is highly popular with the retailer’s frontline staff, with whom he frequently communicates using Twitter – a habit he may have to limit in his new role.
A former strategy director of Mothercare and one-time director of Silverscreen, the private equity-backed retailer that went into administration in 2006, James also brings experience from Bain and Boston Consulting Group.
He has a BA in Law from Oxford, and is known from his university days as a member of the Bullingdon Club along with Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson. Ocado co-founder Jason Gissing was also once a member.
James appears in the infamous picture of club members in their formal dress taken in 1987.