CEO churn: Why are retail bosses booted out so quickly?

revolving door

The turnover of retail CEOs reached its highest level since 2012 last year. Why are retail’s leaders sent packing so frequently?

Being a retail chief executive is like being a Premier League manager. It’s unforgiving, it’s harder than ever to compete with the big boys and a couple of disappointing sets of results can lead to those in charge packing their bags.

And, much like in the world of football managers, the tenure of those at the top is getting shorter than ever.

The churn in retail CEOs is at its highest level since 2012 after 55 leaders were replaced in 2019, up from 44 the previous year, according to headhunter Korn Ferry’s UK Retail CEO Tracker. And more than a third (38%) of those uprooted spent less than three years in the hot seat.

CEOs are not given enough time to prove themselves, believes Christine Cross, non-executive director of businesses including Coca-Cola and Fenwick.

“It takes a full year to get your arms around a retail business because it performs differently at different times of year. Then say you spend a year doing refinements, you’ve only got one year and you’re out,” she maintains.

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