Melinda Paraie will be a new name to many UK retail observers, but on paper at least the American appears a good fit to lead Cath Kidston through the next stage of its development after Kenny Wilson upped sticks to join Dr Martens.
Cath Kidston may be a quintessentially British brand, yet it is anything but a parochial business. International sales have long been the engine of growth and the company has ambitions to penetrate even deeper into overseas markets in the years ahead.
If you want to build a global brand, it makes sense to have a global brandbuilder at the helm.
Paraie has a broad skillset encompassing product development, marketing, stores and digital, as well as significant experience of Asian retail, a region in which Cath Kidston has well over 100 stores.
“It’s common knowledge that the UK retail scene is very different from the US, but that hasn’t stopped Americans from making a success of running British businesses”
Her experience in the fashion sector will also have appealed to Cath Kidston’s private equity owners, with the likes of J.Crew, Gap and Coach among her former employers.
Chairman William Flanz emphasised Paraie’s ability to create customer-centric models on unveiling her appointment, and it certainly seems that retailers are increasingly looking for leaders who adopt a consumer, rather than a channel, mindset.
Across the pond
Paraie is currently the chief merchandising officer at New York-based John Hardy and will move to London in June to take up her new role.
It’s common knowledge that the UK retail scene is very different from the US, but that hasn’t stopped Americans from making a success of running British businesses.
Not everyone from a faraway land fares quite as well. The opprobrium being heaped on Wesfarmers for its disastrous purchase of Homebase shows the jeopardy of importing a successful model, and leadership team, from one market and expecting it to work in a completely different one.
Paraie has a tough act to follow in Wilson, but she’s surely savvy enough to realise that the Cath Kidston playbook doesn’t need ripping up, just a little tweaking to continue the business on the path to becoming a truly global brand.