One thing you could never accuse Nigel Oddy of is seeking an easy life.
The lengthy power struggle with House of Fraser owner Sanpower and its enigmatic chair Yuan Yafei that led to Oddy’s departure in December 2016 would have seen many a chief executive retreat into the quieter world of non-executive roles and consultancy.
Not Oddy, however, who instead accepted the offer of another maverick, in the shape of The Range founder Chris Dawson, to add some sheen to the retailer ahead of a planned IPO.
It’s an impressive coup by McGeorge, who has landed a COO with CEO experience and a consummate professional
At the time it seemed a brave career choice for a man regarded as a polished, corporate operator. Eighteen months later, Oddy was on the move again – albeit reportedly on more amiable terms – after The Range canned plans for an IPO, a decision Dawson attributed, in his inimitable style, to “crap” market conditions.
This week it was reported that Oddy is once again throwing himself into the retail cauldron by taking up the offer of becoming New Look’s new chief operating officer. Oddy will take up the role on April 1 and will report directly to executive chair Alistair McGeorge.
It’s an impressive coup by the influential McGeorge, who has landed a COO with CEO experience and a consummate professional that has spent his career working in the upper echelons of major brands including House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer.
McGeorge is surely right when he says that Oddy’s operational expertise and significant retail experience will be a great asset to New Look as it continues to pull back from the edge of the abyss after debt built up to unsustainable levels under the former management.
Under McGeorge’s leadership, the business has managed to sure up the balance sheet through a debt-for-equity swap with some of its key stakeholders. The focus now is on overhauling the product proposition to appeal to a wider consumer base and re-establishing New Look’s value credentials in an ultra-competitive marketplace.
McGeorge is also keen to establish a more agile, cohesive multichannel model, using New Look’s extensive (albeit shrinking) store network to facilitate an improved click-and-collect service, while continuing to drive cost savings and efficiencies.
To this end, Oddy’s extensive operational experience, encompassing everything from logistics and procurement to planning and trading, can only be of benefit.
New Look is in the process of a full-throttle regime change, with McGeorge ruthlessly wielding the axe over senior management appointed by his predecessor Anders Kristiansen and drafting in a mix of trusted cohorts and new talent.
Former sales director Mark Axon has been rehired by his former boss as UK and Republic of Ireland retail director, while Warehouse’s Kate Walmsley was appointed ecommerce and digital director in early 2018.
Oddy joins McGeorge’s revolution at a time when New Look’s turnaround is still far from secure.
One thing we know for sure is that he won’t be afraid of the challenge.