So, Debenhams has a new boss. Michael Sharp will leave the troubled department store on June 24, the day after the MT Live Future of Work conference (and some vote thing, which someone booked on the same day...). Next to take the hotseat: Sergio Bucher.
Bucher represents an interesting choice. For the last three years he’s headed up Amazon’s fashion business in Europe, where his highlights included teaming up with the Kaiser Chiefs to showcase the tech giant’s menswear collection and opening a 46,000 square ft fashion studio in Shoreditch. His mission was to make Amazon the go to place for clothes shopping.
For reasons that were perhaps out of his control, that’s not happened yet. But the implication is clear: Debenhams sees its future on the web. ‘Sergio's wealth of e-commerce expertise, international experience and clear leadership qualities stood out,’ said chairman Sir Ian Cheshire. ‘I am confident we have the best possible person to realise the potential of "new Debenhams" as a leading international multi-channel retailer with a bright future.’
Nothing like a little optimism. Unfortunately, John Lewis realised the importance of being ‘multi-channel’ years ago, which means Debenhams - and M&S, which also has a new boss in Steve Rowe - have some catching up to do. At least they (probably) don’t have to worry about BHS, eh.
Bucher may be the man to lead Debenhams into a new online era, but he also brings a strong pedigree in European fashion retail – he had a long career at Zara-owner Inditex, Nike and Puma, where he was European general manager. Whether he can replicate the success of those much-loved brands at Debenhams remains to be seen.
In any case, surviving for decades in the catty world of fashion – and indeed at Amazon, which is not exactly known for being a soft and cuddly place to work – will serve Bucher in good stead when negotiating with the likes of Mike Ashley, Debenham’s enigmatic investor and concession-holder.
There is one other string to Bucher’s bow that could come in handy – and it’s made out of Lycra. Before he joined Inditex, Bucher had the superlative job title ‘Marketing Communications Manager, Lycra –Europe’ for DuPont. Could the leotard be making a mainstream comeback, with a Debenhams twist? Keep watching the shelves.