Young fashion chain Jack Wills has hired former Vodafone marketing boss Wendy Becker as its chief operating officer, a new role for the retailer.

The hire has heightened speculation that the retailer is gearing up to sell a stake or float.

Becker, who is also on the board of online grocer Ocado and is a non-executive director at Whitbread, is set to join the retailer next month.

She will report into chief executive and co-founder of the retailer Peter Williams. Williams and co-founder Robert Shaw own over 70% of Jack Wills after private equity group Inflexion took a minority stake in 2007.

The retailer, which refers to itself as ‘university outfitters’, was reported to be eyeing a float or stake sale last year and was understood to be in talks with Goldman Sachs.

Jack Wills was founded in 1999 and now has almost 60 stores in the UK and Ireland as well as stores in the US and Hong Kong.

Becker, who held the group marketing head position at Vodafone, was previously managing director at telecoms firm TalkTalk.