Having sealed a lucrative private equity sale and with overseas expansion on the cards, the Office chief executive is starting the year in style.
Even the prospect of missing his Christmas bash because of the heavy snow doesn’t stop Brian McCluskey from cracking jokes while being interviewed.
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But his upbeat mood is no surprise because the Office chief executive has just sealed the sale of the business. Last month private equity firm Silverfleet snapped up the footwear retailer for an undisclosed amount from previous owner West Coast Capital.
While West Coast chairman Sir Tom Hunter may have exited, McCluskey, who has been at the helm of Office for seven years, remains in the same role and has reinvested in the business.
Although he has been busy in recent weeks concluding the sale, McCluskey has kept his eye on business and Office has been racking up record weekly sales. Despite the heavy snow, the 124-store business generated a sales surge of 30% in the week ending December 5.
Since joining Office in 2003, shortly after West Coast bought the business from founder David Casey for £15m, McCluskey has overseen impressive growth. The retailer has expanded from 20 stores to 124 and the year to January 31, EBITDA rose to £18.5m, up from £10.5m the year before.
While the UK continues to perform strongly, McCluskey sees foreign expansion as next on the agenda.
“I would like to trial some stores in Europe,” he says. “Germany has one of the biggest economies in Europe and I could see a store in Berlin. It’s a process we’re looking at.”
McCluskey - who enjoys spending his spare time with his five children and partner - also thinks Office’s transactional website offers “exciting opportunities”. He says: “Four years ago there were zero sales on the website, this year it’ll be just short of £20m. The web is going to be exciting for us.”
One person who knows him describes McCluskey as a good team player. “He’s hard as nails in business but he’s a big softie,” he says. “He has got a heart of gold and gives a lot back but he does it very quietly. He is a good guy.”
Helen Povey, senior ladies’ branded footwear buyer at Office, says her boss operates an open-door policy. “The best thing for me is that if I need him I can just go into his office and ask for help,” she says.
Described by one person who knows him as a “big bear”, this year McCluskey swapped his Office shoes for a pair of Brasher hiking boots to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. He says it was one of his biggest challenges, and he raised £35,000 for cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
While he believes 2011 will be a tough year for retailers generally, McCluskey is optimistic about prospects for Office. He says: “We had an awesome year last year and this year has been even better than last. The tough economy and the cutbacks must eventually take their toll, but people still want shoes and want to go out
and look their best. People are still partying and want to attract a boyfriend or girlfriend and want to be wearing the right gear.”
Excited by the opportunity, McCluskey has no plans to hang up his Office shoes in the short term. “I can see myself at Office for the next five years. Beyond that who knows?”
2003 Chief executive, Office
1999 Director of retail acquisitions, West Coast Capital
1995 Finance director, Sports Division
1989 Finance director, Jeyes UK
1986 Various financial roles
1983 Chartered accountant