Forget Mrs M&S, it's time to meet Mrs Debenhams – the top priority for department store's new boss Sergio Bucher

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She’s younger, hipper and likes a glass of prosecco — this is the customer Debenhams’ new boss hopes will outflank its rival’s ideal shopper, Mrs M&S.

Debenhams’ chairman Sir Ian Cheshire presented, “Claire”, who is 41, interested in fashion and likes to break up her frequent shops with a coffee or glass of fizz, as he revealed Sergio Bucher, the European head of Amazon’s fashion business will succeed Michael Sharp at the department store.

Her identification comes a day after new Marks & Spencer boss Steve Rowe promised to “celebrate and cherish” his own core customer, the 50-year-old Mrs M&S, who shops in its stores around 18 times year and wants stylish “everyday essentials”. Courting Claire will be top of the to-do list for Bucher, who will receive an £3.8 million pay package and arrives in October.

“She shops once a week and uses the internet to get ideas. She’s interested in the experience of shopping and the breadth of choice of brand. We can do a lot more for that customer than we can do at the moment and that’s where Sergio is going to spend his time,” Cheshire said.

Bucher, who will receive a base salary of £700,000 and a £5000 clothing allowance, has had a long career in retail including stints at Puma, Nike and Zara-owner Inditex. Cheshire said that experience will help Debenhams develop its Designers at Debenhams ranges and its own-label products.

However, he acknowledged the appointment could be seen as unexpected. 

“I was very pleasantly surprised he is leaving such a key player as Amazon to come and join us.”

He described Bucher as “very compelling, open, low ego and a collaborative leader”.

Sharp’s departure was announced last year. His five-year tenure was a rocky one as the company failed to keep up with rivals like John Lewis. In 2013 it suffered two profit warnings after heavy discounting squeezed margins. 


£3.8 million man: New Debenhams boss Sergio Bucher (Debenhams)

Its finance chief Simon Herrick then quit dramatically. Sharp’s work since, including a well-received upgrade of its Oxford Street flagship, boosting online sales, growing its beauty department and cutting discounts has helped put Debenhams on a stronger footing.

Recent updates have shown rising sales, including during the crucial Christmas period.

Cheshire said Bucher’s appointment, which followed a “rigorous” internal and external search, was about bringing in “next-generation vision”. 

He would, however, continue to focus on categories like beauty and gifting, which are outpacing clothing with  3% sales growth.

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May 26, 2016 |
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