Aug 26, 2019
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Karen Millen boss is latest of three CEO exits this month as UK retail struggles

Aug 26, 2019

It’s been a month that some of the most senior executives in UK retail will want to forget with a trio of business leaders leaving, the latest being Karen Millen’s top executive.

Karen Millen is closing all its stores - Sandra Halliday

The first raft of job cuts at Karen Millen and Coast earlier this month have now been followed up by new owner Boohoo going right to the top with the exit of CEO Beth Butterwick as Boohoo works to integrate the businesses into its pureplay online operation and leave behind its physical stores past.

There have also been reports that other London-based workers have been told their roles are at risk and while Boohoo will try to redeploy workers at its HQ, the fact that it’s Manchester-based means few staff are likely to be prepared to make such a move.

Boohoo hasn’t officially commented about the departure of Butterwick who joined from Bonmarché three years ago, another business that has seen its own existential struggles this year and that's now majority owned by billionaire Philip Day.

Butterwick, whose previous posts included time spent at M&S and Gap, had tried to turn around Bonmarché and tried the same at Karen Millen, although she was battling some of the toughest fashion retail headwinds seen for decades.

Karen Millen is closing all of its stores with those locations currently running closing-down sales, which also means that more than 1,000 jobs in its stores are at risk. The company has 32 stores and 177 concessions and it’s likely that most or all of the staff at these locations will lose their jobs.

Butterwick’s departure came as another CEO at an ailing company that was recently taken over also headed for the exit. This month, Sports Direct took over at Jack Wills and CEO Suzanne Harlow left two weeks later.

The top exec had only been in the role for a year, having taken over as founder Peter Williams departed. Harlow had previously worked at Debenhams for 19 years, her final role being group trading director.

Another big name CEO also left this month with Monsoon Accessorize’s CEO Paul Allen quitting after four years in the role. He won’t be replaced. The company may not have been taken over but it has struggled in recent periods and launched a CVA in July and conditions remain challenging for the womenswear-to-accessories retailer.

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