Alex Baldock has only been in the Dixons Carphone hotseat a matter of days but there are already signs of the transformation to come under his leadership, not least in personnel.
UK and Ireland chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe bookended the week in which Baldock joined the business by confirming her departure for a new role as chief executive designate at an energy supply business recently formed by SSE and Innogy.
Bickerstaffe will be a loss to the retail sector. She has been a central figure at Dixons Carphone for the best part of a decade, helping to guide the business through the merger and subsequent convergence of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse with characteristic diligence and strong leadership.
It should also be noted that the departure of one of retail’s most senior women comes at a time when British business is under scrutiny for the opportunities afforded to female employees. At 16.4% the mean gender pay gap between men and women in retail is marginally lower than the 17.4% national average but the sector still has much work to do to ensure that women are properly represented in senior roles.
Bickerstaffe was an ambassador for Retail Week’s Be Inspired campaign and has spoken previously about her commitment to nurturing talent at all levels of the business. It is hoped that Baldock and his senior team will proactively look to encourage and promote female talent as he plans his new people strategy.
We can certainly expect more comings and goings at Dixons Carphone in the months ahead. Many of its senior staff have been with the business a long time, in some cases locked in by share options that required them to see through the recent period of business transformation. These are now coming to an end with the result being that a number of executives, including chief executive Seb James and finance director Humphrey Singer, have moved on to pastures new in recent months.
A change in leadership doesn’t always engender a change in strategy but in Baldock’s case, it feels inevitable that Dixons Carphone will be reinvented once again during his tenure. It’s a good, solid business with a loyal customer base that has already proved capable of adapting to changing shopper habits. But there remain structural weaknesses, such as its reliance on physical stores, and it’s hard to see Baldock adopting a ‘steady as she goes’ strategy based on his track record at Shop Direct.
My advice to employees would be to fasten your seatbelts: it’s set to be a thrilling ride.