Value fashion group Peacocks intends to appoint a chairman for the first time in five years, prompting speculation that an IPO may be on the cards.

The privately owned retailer, which owns the Peacocks Bonmarché chain as well as eponymous stores, was taken private in 2005 and has not had a chairman since.

Peacocks has appointed headhunter Heidrick & Struggles to fill the role. Such an appointment would create the right structure for a future IPO, industry sources said.

Last year bidders were understood to be circling Peacocks, potentially valuing the retailer at £600m, but no sale resulted. The appointment of headhunters prompted suggestions that Peacocks has now set its sights on an eventual float instead.

However, Peacocks chief executive Richard Kirk, who owns 30% of the business, said that the search did not indicate that the business was set for flotation.

Retail Week Knowledge Bank senior partner Robert Clark said the appointment of a chairman frequently presages change. He said: “It would formalise the structure of the business prior to any subsequent corporate move.”

Peacocks’ previous chairman was Gavin Simonds, who stood down after Peacocks delisted. The interests of the retailer’s owners, hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, have been represented by other board members in the interim, it is understood.

The best-known former chairman of Peacocks, private equity tycoon John Lovering, left the Peacocks board three months ago. He stood down as chairman in 2001 but returned to the retailer to sit on the board in 2005.

Last month the retailer posted a rise in annual EBITDA from £64m to £77.2m for its last financial year to April 3, 2010. Group sales rose from £679.1m to £720.9m.

Total sales at the Peacocks chain rose 7.4% to £526.8m in the year. Like-for-likes fell 0.4% but like-for-like margin was up 1.6%.