Debenhams chief Michael Sharp to step down as profit rises 5.5%

Debenhams, Britain’s second-largest department store group, expects to announce a new CEO to succeed Michael Sharp, in the next few weeks.

Last October, Mr Sharp said he planned to step down as CEO in 2016, after 30 years at Debenhams and its predecessor, the Burton Group. Debenhams, which trails John Lewis by annual sales, said Mr Sharp submitted his resignation to the board yesterday, triggering a 12-month notice period.

Analysts regard trading director Suzanne Harlow as the leading internal candidate. Media reports have also linked Mark Newton-Jones, the current CEO of Mothercare, and Mike Shearwood, the former boss of Karen Millen, with the job. Mr Sharp will remain as CEO until his successor is confirmed. 

Under his reign, Debenhams built its non-clothing categories, such as beauty, cut back on discounting, added concessions, built up its online offering, and expanded.

However, the firm, trading from 253 stores across 27 countries, has seen little sales and profit growth, while its shares are well down on their November, 2012, peak of 124 pence.

First-half results yesterday showed some progress, sending Debenhams shares up 3.2%, to 79.8 pence, at one stage. Pre-tax profit rose 5.5%, to £93.8m (€118m), in the six months to February 27. Sales rose 1.6% to £1.63bn.

* Reuters


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