Retailers have paid tribute to Hilary Santell, a leading fashion industry figure, who passed away on March 21 after a long battle with cancer.

Santell began her career in 1983 as a graduate trainee at Burton Group, where she held various senior positions and worked alongside now chief executive of the Retail Trust Nigel Rothband and Teresa Tideman, joint managing director of Disney Store, Europe.

Tideman said: “She had an incredible fashion nose and always knew what was going to sell. Above all she was an incredibly caring individual.”

Rothband said: “She was always absolutely focused, extremely professional and very determined in everything she did.”

After leaving Burton Group in 1992 Santell held senior roles at retailers including House of Fraser, Next, Littlewoods, Marchpole and Beales, which she joined in 2004.

Santell, who was heavily involved in charity work, stepped down from Beales less than a year later due to her illness but remained a prolific presence in the industry.

Her funeral was held on March 31 at St Botolph’s Church in Swyncombe, just outside Henley-on-Thames.

Santell, 51, is survived by her husband Stuart.