The changing retail landscape in 2014 had a marked impact on the number of chief exec appointments made during the year.

The changing retail landscape in 2014 had a marked impact on the number of chief exec appointments made during the year.

This reflected a three year downward trend in the number of chief executive changes, from 56 in 2012, to 44 in 2013 and 32 in 2014, and was what we had anticipated, given the overall improvement in the UK economy over the period, and therefore less overall market volatility.

Our third annual UK Retail CEO Appointments Tracker, which analyses over 200 UK based retailers with annual sales in excess of £50m per annum, shows the overall number of chief executive changes was markedly lower than the year before.

Women chief execs

It’s very encouraging to see that the number of female chief exec appointments in retail have improved for second year running with eight women CEOs named in 2014.

The full list of female CEOs appointed during 2014 were: Veronique Laury-Deroubaix at Kingfisher Sarah Rotherham at Aspinalls of London, Sarah Crook at Christopher Kane, Louise Barnes at Crew Clothing, Stacey Cartwright at Harvey Nicholls, Meg Lustman at Hobbs, Octavia Morley at Oka and Ella Hitchins at Rigby and Peller.

This represented a significant overall improvement in the percentage of female chief execs hired, rising from 18% in 2013 to 24% in 2014.

Although there were 12 less chief executive appointments in 2014 year-on-year, the actual impact of these appointments has been significant in terms of the industry as it has resulted in some major re-structuring which in turn is having a ripple effect across the whole industry.

The ripple effect

These changes will play out over 2015 as changes in strategic direction and organisational structure impact the executive leadership teams as well as jobs across the sector.

At Tesco, Dave Lewis has already announced that he is taking out one third of the executive management team, closing headquarters and 10,000 staff are going to go from across the UK.

The Dixons Carphone merger will result in people being displaced and new chief exec appointments at the Co-op and Kingfisher are all feeding into this landscape of organisational change.  Overall, in recruitment terms this is leading to an oversupply in the market.

To further illustrate the point, we saw changes at the top at Home Retail Group, Mothercare, Aldi, Sainsburys, Co-Op, Kingfisher, Dunelm and Carpetright.

In these businesses we saw varying drivers behind some of these appointments; either a shift from co-leadership to a single chief executive in the case of Aldi, the appointment of one chief exec over the combined organisation in the case of the DixonsCarphone merger, and the appointment of the former interim chief execs as the permanent chief executive in the cases of both Mothercare and Co-Op.

The ripple effect of all of this for the whole industry in the coming year will be marked, given the number of staff these businesses employ across the UK and internationally.

A new boss inevitably leads to subsequent changes in strategic direction and organisational structure for reasons of growth, right sizing or redirection and it is common for any new chief exec to make a number of changes in his/her executive leadership team. 

  • Sarah Lim, head of the UK retail practice at CTPartners