Debenhams has begun the search for a new chief executive after confirming that Michael Sharp will step down in 2016 after five years in charge.
The department store giant said it had always been Sharp’s intention to serve a five-year term and that now he has begun the second month of that fifth year, he has indicated that it is the right time for the board to commence a succession planning process.
Sharp will remain in post during the Christmas trading period and into 2016 and will assist the board in the process of identifying his successor.
This process will evaluate internal and external candidates, with Sharp agreeing to remain in his post to ensure an “orderly and smooth handover” to his successor.
Under his leadership, Debenhams has been delivering a four-pillared strategy to build a leading international multi-channel brand. The company said it has made an “encouraging” start to the new financial year and is in good shape for the Christmas trading period.
Sharp said: “I believe Debenhams is now capable of competing in the ever changing and challenging world of multi-channel retailing. I accepted the job of Chief Executive with the intention of spending five years in the role and although it will be difficult to leave a fabulous company like Debenhams, now is the right time for the Board to begin the process of identifying my successor.
“I hope being transparent about my intentions will stop recent speculation becoming a distraction, allowing me and the Debenhams team to focus on delivering our strategy and the important Christmas trading period.”
Annual results published last week revealed the firm grew sales by 1% to £2.8 billion last year, while pre-tax profits nudged up 75 to £113m. The company operates from 248 stores in 27 countries and is available online in more than 60 countries.
Nigel Northridge, chairman of Debenhams, said: that on behalf of the board he wished to thank Sharp for leading Debenhams through a “crucial time of change” in retailing and for the good progress the company has made under his leadership.
“He has worked enormously hard to develop the company’s strategy and the benefits of this are really starting to show in the results. I am pleased Michael will remain with us until we have appointed a suitable replacement and will help facilitate an orderly succession process,” he said.