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Julian Dunkerton to stay on as Superdry CEO until April 2021

By Michele Maatouk

Date: Monday 14 Oct 2019

LONDON (ShareCast) - (Sharecast News) - Superdry said on Monday that founder Julian Dunkerton will stay on as chief executive officer until April 2021 while the company continues to look for a long-term successor.
Dunkerton, who returned to the fashion retailer in April as interim CEO, has agreed to continue in the role "to oversee the delivery of his vision to restore the brand to its design-led roots and lead the business to sustainable growth".

Superdry said Dunkerton is "the right person to lead the business through this initial crucial phase of the turnaround".

Chairman Peter Williams said: "Julian has a clear vision and his creativity, ambition and leadership will be crucial for the turnaround of the business. As interim CEO, Julian has already been working closely with the team to execute this plan and while much remains to be done, the necessary foundations are being laid. I am looking forward to working alongside Julian during this period as we seek to identify his long-term successor."

Broker Peel Hunt said it had a "mixed view" on this.

"There's no doubting Julian's passion and creative vision for the brand. Our concern is that his ability to focus on the brand and product design will be hampered by the day-to-day pressures of running a business of Superdry's size and scale, with Julian openly admitting that a professional CEO is better suited to the role than he is, particularly when it came to overseeing distribution, supply chain and systems change," it said.

"Equally, there is the question of how easy it will be to attract a CEO of the right calibre to work alongside Julian at a critical time for the business, when Julian is going to be driving much of the strategy personally, a point which may well have played a part in the decision to extend Julian's tenure as CEO through this period."

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Given a significant emotional and financial stake in the business, it's no surprise Dunkerton wanted to return to try and turn around a business which had badly lost its way in the wake of his initial departure back in early 2018.

"Whether the company's problems were due to his exit or simply because shoppers had grown tired of the brand is open to question. It certainly seems like the decision to push the wholesale arm under the previous management was a mistake. This led to the company having a narrower range of items and, in order to keep things fresh, more seasonal changes were introduced.

"As a result, trading was more exposed to fluctuations in the weather and consumer demand, which in turn led to heavy discounting, ultimately undermining the integrity of the brand. Dunkerton certainly wasted no time in identifying the areas which needed work - namely getting back to a design-led approach, putting the right products in the right stores and improving the company's online platform.

"And he swiftly hit the reset button on the financials, downgrading the earnings outlook, slashing the dividend and basically writing off the current year to April 2020 as one of transition. Despite some grumbles, shareholders largely seem willing to give Dunkerton time to get Superdry back on track. But his task won't be made any easier by the tricky retail backdrop."

At 1515 BST, the shares were up 1.8% at 440.60p.

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