• Finance boss Shaun Wills, formerly at SuperGroup, will take over as chief executive
  • Destination of current chief executive Tim Davies is unknown
  • Group one year into three-year turnaround plan

Jacques Vert finance boss Shaun Wills has been appointed chief executive of the fashion group. 

Wills, formerly chief financial officer at Supergroup, will take the helm of the womenswear business today, replacing Tim Davies who has been in the role less than a year and is moving on having achieved his aim of stabilising the business.

Wills joined Jacques Vert, which primarily operates via concessions, in May 2015, the same month as Davies.

Davies is leaving the business for an as yet unknown retailer. He initially joined Jacques Vert as transformation director, before becoming chief executive two months later when then boss Teresa Tideman stepped down.

Davies and Wills have taken the business through the first year of a three-year turnaround plan, slimming down its brand offerings from 10 to five. Currently, Jacques Vert Group consists of Jacques Vert, Dash, Eastex, Precis Petite and wholesale outfit Windsmoor.

Davies said that the group had experienced several years of decline before the pair’s arrival but that it was on track to break even measured by internal metrics such as underlying EBITDA.

To achieve that, the group has cut costs, made redundancies at both head office and in stores, and is focusing on building the identities of its brands and extending their appeal.

Future strategy

Davies added that the 2015/16 year had been about stabilising the group, that 2016/17 would be about strengthening and differentiating brands and that from 2017/18 onwards the focus would be on growth.

While most of Jacques Vert’s business comes from concessions – Davies and Wills previously both worked at the retailer’s biggest partner, Debenhams – it also has standalone stores.

It has worked to rationalise its estate in recent years, and has nine stores with a further shop due to open in Tunbridge Wells later this month. The Tunbridge Wells store is a trial of a new market town format.

Its online business, which comprises both department store websites and its own platforms, accounted for 20% of overall sales in the two months since its 2015/16 year ended. The pair identified online as a key engine for growth, over and above standalone stores.

However, product is at the heart of the Jacques Vert turnaround, with brand directors currently being appointed to each brand under the group umbrella. Currently, the group has two trading directors across five brands.

One confirmed appointment is that of Coast buying director Andrea Hickman, who will head Precis.

As he took the reins, Wills told Retail Week: "Now it’s about the growth of the individual brands. We’re known for quality and occasionwear. We need to be more front of mind when it comes to being contemporary, relevant and versatile.”

The group is mainly focused on the UK but also has operations in Canada, Belgium and the Middle East. It is exploring options in Germany.

The retailer had floated the idea of entering the US market, and had invested in the plan, but it was deemed a diversion from more pressing work.

Wills’ promotion to become chief executive of Jacques Vert marks the summit of a business comeback after he was declared bankrupt two years ago – a decision which was shortly afterwards annulled in court.

The group is owned by Sun European, a private equity house which also owns retailers including Dreams.