Jill Easterbrook has kept a relatively low profile since leaving Tesco a year ago. Perhaps this explains the surprise in certain quarters that greeted her appointment as the new chief executive of Boden. My view, however, is that this a move that makes sense on a number of levels.Easterbrook has already revealed herself to be a customer of Boden so there is a clear connection with the brand.
She also has experience of fashion retail from her time running Tesco’s clothing division, and as a non-executive director of Auto Trader Group is familiar with how a digital business is run.
Easterbrook was highly rated at Tesco and was a key lieutenant to both Sir Terry Leahy and Philip Clarke.
She held the important role of chief customer officer during which time she undertook a significant restructure of the marketing department to reflect a renewed focus on the customer.
Her final role with the grocer saw her lead the transformation of the business in the early stages of Dave Lewis’s leadership. It would be no surprise to see Easterbrook lean on these experiences in reshaping the Boden business to meet the needs of its customers and make it fit for the challenges that lie ahead.
The move is also noteworthy as an example of another ‘clicks’ retailer hiring a chief executive with a ‘bricks’ background, following eBay’s appointment in January of former Tesco executive Rob Hattrell as its new UK vice president. The similarities don’t end there. Like Hattrell, Easterbrook has a background in consultancy having spent four years at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (Hattrell was an Accenture man).
Boden recently opened its first physical store and has plans to add a further two outlets in 2017. Easterbrook feels like the right person to lead the evolution of the brand at this important point in its history.
Elsewhere this week, outgoing Co-op CEO Richard Pennycook has wasted little time in adding a new non-executive position to his CV after being named chairman of Fenwick.
The department store chain has entrusted Pennycook as the first non-family member to chair the business, a status that reflects the high esteem in which he is held within the retail sector. His experience of working within family businesses, most notably Morrisons, will stand him in good stead to deal with any challenges that may arise.
Fenwick is a business with ambitious plans for future growth and I will be watching its development with interest once Pennycook assumes his position in May.