Fenwick names new CEO, Feather has major e-tail experience

UK department store chain Fenwick has named its first CEO to come from outside of the founding family. But more importantly, it has named an executive with major online credentials.


Fenwick


Robbie Feather will join the business in January after leaving Sainsbury’s where he’s currently commercial director at Argos after having moved from a general merchandise role at the supermarket firm when it acquired Argos’s owner.

Earlier is his career, he co-founded Feather & Black, the furniture chain that this week filed for administration. He stepped down from that firm in 2009.

Bit it’s the combination of his Sainsbury’s/Argos experience with Fenwick that is most interesting. Fenwick may only be a small department store chain but it’s among the best known of Britain’s smaller retailers. However, it’s also one that has been very late to enter e-shopping and it still doesn’t have a transactional website, a major problem for any retailer wishing to compete effectively in a tough UK market at present.

Fenwick will now have an e-tail insider with a deep knowledge of just what makes e-sales tick. At Argos, Feather has been responsible for an operation where web sales are paramount but also one where omnichannel is key as consumers pick up (and often select) their purchases in-store.  

The appointment of Feather comes after Richard Pennycook became chairman earlier this year. Once again, that appointment was the first time a non-family member had held the role.

His appointment came after Mark Fenwick stepped down as chairman while trading director Hugo Fenwick and MD Adam Fenwick also stepped back.

Feather’s appointment sets the seal on the founding family’s realisation that executive with wider experience are needed to drive the business forward. And Feather certainly fits that bill. As well as his time at his own company and at Sainsbury’s/Argos, he has also worked at Asda and as John Lewis’s buying director for electricals, home and technology.

He has been praised for his entrepreneurial flair as well as for being able to fit into the culture of a larger business. 

Fenwick currently operates nine stores after closing its Leicester branch and one in Windsor while opening one not that far away at the Lexicon in Bracknell.

Its most recent profits report (for the year to January 2017) saw profits and turnover falling in the face of a tough UK market. Operating profits fell 8% to £17.9 million with sales down slightly to £426.4 million. The company said it “faces some of the most volatile and challenging market conditions seen in its 134-year history.”

The retailer is currently investing in its existing stores and in future growth with £55 million being spent on upgrades and, importantly, £20 million of that dedicated to developing a transactional website.

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