Debenhams hires Mothercare man as finance chief

Debenham, in Leeds. Picture by Gabriel Szabo / Guzelian

Debenham, in Leeds. Picture by Gabriel Szabo / Guzelian

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DEPARTMENT store group Debenhams has appointed Matt Smith, formerly of Mothercare, as its chief financial officer.

Mr Smith will replace Simon Herrick, who resigned when Debenhams issued its second profit warning in less than a year last December after admitting its margins had been squeezed by heavy discounts that nonetheless failed to spark a late surge in festive spending.

Mr Smith, a chartered accountant, has been chief financial officer of Mothercare since 2013.

Before that he held several senior finance roles within Home Retail Group including finance director of Argos.

He was in charge of Mothercare’s finances in a period when it became a bid target after poor Christmas trading figures prompted a profit warning.

“We look forward to Matt joining Debenhams and to the benefits that his extensive experience of international and multi-channel retailing will bring to our business,” Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp said in a statement.

Debenhams trades out of 243 stores in 28 countries and sells online in 67 countries. It is Britain’s second biggest department store group.

But it has failed to keep pace with John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store group, which has outperformed competitors in recent years helped by a strong web presence, attractive stores and more affluent customer base focused in South East England.

John Lewis is expected to report bumper first half sales this week, helped by rocketing online sales. Its success is casting a shadow over rival Marks & Spencer, which has seen 12 successive drops in quarterly general merchandising sales.

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