The percentage of new chief executives appointed in the UK last year who were women reached its highest level at 35%.

Board meeting

In the 2024 UK retail CEO tracker report from management consultancy firm Korn Ferry, shared with Retail Week, 11 women CEOs were appointed in 2023, representing 35% of the total appointments.

Thirty-one new retail bosses were appointed in 2023, down from 42 in 2022 and below the 12-year rolling average of 40 a year. 

Of the 31 appointments, 52% were first-time CEOs and 59% were promoted internally.

Three CEOs from under-represented communities were appointed last year, up from only one in 2022.

The most change occurred in the fashion and luxury sector, with 48% of hires, while grocery saw 17% of the new CEOs and the general merchandise, pharmacy, beauty, specialist and the home sector saw 35%.

Korn Ferry’s list of notable CEO appointments to watch in 2024 included Rami Baitiéh at Morrisons and Nish Kankiwala at John Lewis Partnership.

Korn Ferry managing director Sarah Lim said: “For 2024, we anticipate CEO recruitment to be ‘steady again’ in the year ahead, with some increase on last year. 

“There will be the inevitable Q1 CEO churn as Christmas performance data comes out and boards seek to change leadership in light of underperformance.  

“However, similar to last year, we predict CEO changes in the year ahead to be more as a result of replacement hires and change to correct underperformance, than as a result of big new company growth or expansion initiatives, although we may start to see an escalation in the second half. 

“Should interest rates and the cost of borrowing come down sooner, then there is the potential for an earlier comeback in the IPO market thereby stimulating demand, but we suspect this may not materialise until mid-year at the earliest, without earlier fiscal intervention.”