Superdry founder secures permanent chief executive role amid board overhaul

Fashion retailer Superdry said founder Julian Dunkerton has been appointed as permanent chief executive following his return to the top job last year after a boardroom coup.

Mr Dunkerton had held the role on an interim basis since retaking control of the business after clashing with previous executives, and his contract was due to end on April 2.

The chain also announced it is kicking off the hunt for a new chairman after Peter Williams said he will step down in 2021 once a successor is appointed, while Silvana Bonello has been appointed as chief operating officer (COO).

Ms Bonello has held senior roles with Nike and most recently Vans and will relocate from Switzerland to take on the role from March 1.

Mr Dunkerton, who is the group’s largest shareholder with a 20.3% stake, said: “We now have the right operational leadership to steer the business through these most uncertain times and drive the brand reset as we seek to inspire our customers with design-led, sustainable product and engage with them through our digital channels.”

The group is still in the process of hiring a chief financial officer, but Mr Williams said this is “well advanced”.

“The completed executive team will be in place early next year and so 2021 is an appropriate time for me to step down,” he said.

Since Mr Dunkerton returned to the fold in April last year he has started slashing discounts in its stores.

In January he said the proportion of the business’s sales that were discounted had halved over the peak trading period, around Christmas.

But it is a plan that Mr Dunkerton has been forced to – at least temporarily – shelve because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group has been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdowns, recently revealing that revenues for the 26 weeks to October 24 fell by 23% compared with the same period last year.

But while store sales plunged 45%, online shopping revenues rose by 50% in the first half.

Andrew Wade, a retail analyst at Jefferies, cheered the move to permanently appoint Mr Dunkerton to the helm.

He said: “Given the successful early stages of the brand reset and business transformation, culminating in the reinvigorated autumn/winter 2020 ranges, we believe the transition of Julian Dunkerton’s leadership to a permanent role is a natural and positive progression.

“The appointment of Silvana Bonello looks to add considerable operational expertise, enabling Julian to focus on product and brand.”