Burberry exec Price to head Topshop, knows luxury and US retail inside out
Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green had said he’d be looking outside of his organisation for a new Topshop/Topman CEO with an international reputation and online experience. And now we know just where he was looking. In the same town but a very different price category.
Not far away from Arcadia’s London HQ at Burberry, he found Paul Price. The executive actually said in May that he would be leaving Burberry this month for an undisclosed opportunity, but he hadn’t been linked him with the Topshop role.
The first male Topshop chief in 18 years, he has been chief merchandising officer at the luxury label, where he has worked for 10 years. An American, h began his fashion life at Bloomingdale’s.
Replacing the respected Mary Homer, who’s taking the top job at The White Company, he starts on September 4, just as Topshop prepares for its usual heavy immersion in London Fashion Week.
He’s certainly an interesting choice. Yes, he’s come from a brand that knows how to tap into the zeitgeist as Topshop does. Yes he comes from a brand that’s known for its digital prowess. And yes he understands retail’s front line.
But his recent experience in mass-market fashion is slim. During his career he has also worked at Lucky Brand Jeans and Banana Republic, which may not exactly be value brands but are at least priced lower than Burberry.
He has a big job on his hands with Topshop and Topman arguably the star names in the Arcadia portfolio but not necessarily the top performers at present. And then there’s the issue of the brand’s Australian operations to deal with.
One element Green believes is key is Price’s experience of businesses with a very global outlook. “I believe Paul will be a great catalyst in leading the next phase of Topshop/Topman’s global expansion,” he said on Wednesday.
But does the appointment also signal big change and maybe a move upmarket for the business as some analysts have suggested? Fashion Network has heard that more than one UK chain is currently looking at tweaking its profile as new pureplay and omnichannel rivals grab market share. Is Topshop contemplating a move further away from the value end of the market where brands such as Bohoo and Misguided are snapping at its heels?
Nobody’s saying at the moment, although it’s a possibility. The chain already sells higher-end pieces in among its lower-priced offer, it shows at London Fashion Week with its Unique label, and it sells a number of more upscale designer-based labels.
But some analysts also suggested the choice of soon front luxury sector could have been because Arcadia may have been unable to find a heavyweight executive with just the right high street experience.
And there's also the fact that his deep knowledge of US retail could be a big help as Arcadia targets expansion in The Americas specifically.
Either way, it’s clear that Topshop and Topman have a future no less interesting than their past.
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