Apr 3, 2020
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Fenwick's leadership team is out, founding family calls in ex-Selfridges exec as MD

Apr 3, 2020

Fenwick has been struggling for some time and with its shops now closed and it's still-young online operation also not functioning, the family that owns the retailer has ousted its chairman and managing director.


Chairman Richard Pennycook, the executive who previously ran the Cooperative Group, is leaving. He had been the firm’s first chairman from outside the Fenwick family when he took the top seat on the board in 2017 after Mark Fenwick stepped down. Importantly too, MD Robbie Feather is also out. The non-executive chair of the remuneration committee, Andy Doyle, is exiting the board too.

But while the family is acting to take more control and also to slim down the board, it's not putting any family members back into the top two positions. Instead existing non-executive director Steve Barber has become interim chairman and John Edgar is taking over as MD. His most recent roles were as CFO at Selfridges and at Harrods. That gives him experience in the ultra luxury sector and also at two of the most successful department store operations in the UK. That experience could be crucial for the small Fenwick chain.

And the family also said there will be a one-month transition period while thanking the outgoing board members. "We would like to thank Richard for his guidance during his time as chairman, and to thank Robbie for all his leadership and dedication in driving the most ambitious transformation in Fenwick’s history. We much appreciate Andy’s contribution to the board also," a family spokesman said. He added: “We look forward to working closely with John and the team through this incredibly challenging time.” Neither Pennycook nor Feather have commented.

The company has faced plenty of troubles in recent periods and it was reported in The Times that the outgoing management and the family members had clashed over the amount of investment needed to push through the firm’s modernisation. However, this is unconfirmed.

Fenwick has been behind many of its department store peers as far as modernisation is concerned and only launched online retail last year. That operation is now closed temporarily as it was serviced from the company’s physical shops rather than a dedicated warehouse. The Times also reported on Friday that until recently, the company's stocktaking was done on paper rather than digitally.

Its last set of accounts saw the company posting a loss of £44.2 million and a sales fall of 13.6%. It also pushed through an efficiency drive that centralised its operations and saw it shedding more than 400 staff. 

However, despite its problems, the company remains asset-rich as its property portfolio is worth £467 million, according to reports. That figure is based mainly on the valuation of its New Bond Street flagship in London. The cost of properties on Bond Street has been rising regularly in recent years and it remains one of the most expensive streets in the world for any brand that wants to take space there.

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