There is a neat symmetry to Alastair McGeorge’s return to New Look. In 2011, he took charge of a business that had lost its way, with profits tumbling and executives jumping ship with alarming regularity. McGeorge identified product and execution as the main problems and vowed to run a much tighter operation and reconnect with New Look’s core shopper.
Two years later he had succeeded in his mission to the extent that he has was confident enough to leave the business in the hands of a new chief executive, Anders Kristiansen.
Fast forward four years and McGeorge is back to pick up the pieces from his successor’s tenure, which began with great promise before spluttering and stalling over the past 18 months.
The situation now confronting McGeorge has close parallels to when he took over, not least in the high turnover of executives. The product team has been particularly decimated with the likes of buying, merchandising and design director Alex Dimitriu, menswear director Christopher Englinde and footwear director Amanda Wain all exiting during the past six months.
In one respect this gives McGeorge the chance to start afresh and inject new energy and ideas into a brand that he admits has focused too much on chasing teenage shoppers to the detriment of its core young adult consumer.
He also retains some very good people including highly rated group operations managing director Dan Monaghan and Paul Rasmussen, who joined as head of digital at the beginning of 2017, while interim chief executive Danny Barrasso will return to his role as UK and Ireland managing director, thus providing continuity from the previous regime.
It would be a brave pundit that writes off McGeorge’s chances of pulling the New Look back from the brink for a second time. You don’t gain a reputation as a turnaround specialist without knowing which levers to pull to deliver change at speed.
Those that have worked with him say McGeorge has a no-nonsense approach to management and has high expectations both of himself and his team. He is far from an out-and-out authoritarian, however, and is prepared to step back and give his teams space to deliver. Ultimately, he is driven by results – profits are sanity everything else is vanity.
McGeorge’s CV suggests he won’t be at New Look for the long haul. But for a retailer than needs a job doing well, and doing quickly, there are not many better in the business.