Retail Trust chair and Hammerson non-executive director Terry Duddy has joined the Debenhams board as a non-executive director.

Debenhams chairman Nigel Northridge said Duddy would be a “great” addition to the board because of his “long and distinguished career in retail”.

Duddy was previously chief executive of Home Retail until March 2014 following its demerger from GUS in October 2006.

Debenhams has called on Duddy’s services as it seeks to improve its margins after a tough trading period over Christmas.

The department store group delivered a 4.9% increase in like-for-like sales in the four weeks to January 10, when group gross transaction value advanced 5.9%.

But although Debenhams was on promotion for 10 days fewer than the previous year and achieved a 12.1% increase in full-price sell-through of own-bought lines, gross margin suffered as a result of higher sales of lower margin categories such as beauty and turbulent fashion market conditions as retailers discounted following the mild autumn.

Duddy also previously served as chief executive of Argos following its acquisition by GUS in 1998. His other senior retail roles include a stint as manging director of PC World.

Duddy became chair of The Retail Trust on September 8, succeeding John Lovering.