House of Fraser has reshuffled its operating board and hired womenswear heavyweight Stephanie Chen to drive the department store’s private-label strategy in womenswear.
Commercial director Colin Porter and director of womenswear, accessories and beauty June Lawler will leave House of Fraser in September. It is understood that both Porter and Lawler will join fashion retailer Crombie.
Chen was instrumental in setting up rival Debenhams’ successful own-label Designers at Debenhams and has held key roles at Bhs as well as working for River Island and Marks & Spencer over 20 years in retail. She will join House of Fraser in September as womenswear director and will also sit on the operating board.
Porter’s responsibilities will be taken over by the buying and finance teams and the chief executive’s office.
House of Fraser chief executive John King said that the appointment of Chen will help drive the growth of private-label in womenswear from 10 per cent of the total range to 40 per cent, following a review of House of Fraser’s brand and product offer conducted earlier in the year.
King added that the retailer would focus on adding new “house brands”, preferably via the licensing route, and that brands such as Kenneth Cole and Episode, which were acquired by the retailer in 2007, had performed well.
The drive represents the next phase of the management’s three-year strategy, which focused on becoming a house of brands to rival Selfridges, then revamping its stores and now pushing its own-label offer.
“It is about moving house brands harder and faster,” added King. “It is now about driving a point of difference and having even more exclusivity.”
In June, House of Fraser said that it was trading ahead of plan with sales “on an improving trend with positive growth” over the previous 12 weeks.