Jul 5, 2022
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Change at the top of Very Group, Lionel Desclée to become CEO

Jul 5, 2022

The Very Group is losing its CEO of four-and-a-half years, Henry Birch, but it’s gaining a big name with an impressive international background.

Lionel Desclée

Birch is preparing to step down in a few months’ time and is being replaced by the former CEO of Walmart Japan, Lionel Desclée.

He’ll join the British online retail giant — which owns the Very and Littlewoods e-tail brands — on 19 September, five days before Birch leaves. The company didn’t say what Birch’s next move will be.

Desclée joins from McKinsey & Company, where he’s a senior advisor. He was — as mentioned — previously president and CEO of Walmart in Japan for three years, where he led a 35,000-strong team at Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket business with a significant food and non-food presence. 

Very said that “under Lionel’s stewardship, Seiyu accelerated its move into digital through a  joint venture with online retailer Rakuten, secured record-breaking colleague engagement, grew customer satisfaction and increased market share. He led Walmart’s subsequent partial exit from Seiyu to investor KKR and Rakuten”.

Before that, he was president and CEO of pet care specialist Tom & Co, which operates over 160 stores in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Having led a management buyout, he increased its digital offering, “enhanced profitability and launched new store concepts”.

And he’s also held a number of senior roles at global retail business Delhaize Group, while he’s currently a non-executive board member at both Tom & Co and BPost, the Belgian company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail.

Clearly, the company has attracted a big hitter to the post and that's not surprising given the size of the overall business today.  

Under Birch’s leadership, The Very Group broke the £2bn-sales mark for the first time in 2020 and, in 2021, delivered record revenue and EBITDA.

Birch joined in 2018 and “helped to transform the group, including implementing a rebrand, launching its highly automated fulfilment centre in the East Midlands, making its AI-powered chatbot the most popular customer service channel, and successfully navigating the pandemic”.

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