Karren Brady, the new chair of Arcadia holding company Taveta, brings a wide variety of experience to the role.
A Conservative peer, chief executive of West Ham United, adviser to Lord Sugar on The Apprentice TV show, awarded a CBE from the Queen for services to business, entrepreneurship and women in business…
A former non-executive of Mothercare and a columnist for The Sun newspaper – her CV is impressive.
The board of Taveta, where Brady has been a non-executive since 2010, was criticised by MPs scrutinising the collapse of BHS a year after its sale by Sir Philip Green for £1.
In particular, Brady’s predecessor as chair, Lord Grabiner, was criticised over corporate governance standards.
Unsurprisingly, Sir Philip’s bête noir, Frank Field MP, took a dim view of Brady’s elevation.
He argued that Brady was there “during the dreadful shenanigans that led to the closure of BHS” and observed: “I assume the reason she has been appointed is because Philip cannot get anyone else to serve on his board.”
“The BHS affair is in the past now and, while the lessons from its demise must be learned, Green’s focus must be on the future”
While Brady’s connections to Green are longstanding, that could prove a boon to the tycoon who, following the bruising of reputation in the wake of BHS’ collapse, is perhaps now more likely to listen to a strong, independent-minded voice on his board – especially one he knows well.
As Brady pointed out when she was appointed, Arcadia, despite a fall in profits last year, generates sales of more than £2bn and is focused on extending its reach overseas through powerful brands such as Topshop.
The BHS affair is in the past now and, while the lessons from its demise must be learned, Green’s focus must be on the future.
Brady has indicated that she sees the need for better governance. If the forceful tycoon is prepared to accept her input as a critical friend, Brady could help him put his global ambitions back on track.
How often should retailers update?
Fashion giant H&M is ending a tradition and moving from monthly to quarterly sales reporting.
H&M, which this week reported sales up 7% year-on-year in June, maintained the shift would give a better picture of business performance.
The retailer said: “The reasoning is that a month is far too short a period over which to assess how sales are developing; in fact, a single month’s sales can actually be misleading, since calendar and weather effects – among other things – may significantly affect the outcome.
“Instead sales development should be viewed over a longer period of time, such as over a season or a quarter. This is also the reason why the majority of companies in fashion retail currently report their sales quarterly rather than monthly.”
“While investors are entitled to know how a retailer is performing, constant reporting can be a drain on management focus that should be devoted to running the business, and can put short-term share price movements rather than longer-term success centre-stage”
Retail analyst Nick Bubb was not pleased by the decision and argued that monthly data more widely would be welcome.
He said: “It would be useful if all major UK retailers reported their sales monthly, so that they could be compared against the BRC-KPMG retail sales figures.”
There’s merit in both points of view.
But while investors are entitled to know how a retailer is performing, constant reporting can be a drain on management focus that should be devoted to running the business, and can put short-term share price movements rather than longer-term success centre-stage.
That short-term horizon can also hold businesses back as investors in new-model enterprises, of which Amazon is the prime example, back long-term investment – even at the expense of profitability – because they look to the future rather than wring their hands over yesterday’s numbers.
Quarterly updates are surely sufficient.