Holland & Barrett taps former Homebase boss for chairman role

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Holland & Barrett chairman

Holland & Barrett’s full year report featured the announcement that former Homebase and Argos boss John Walden has been hired as the retailer’s new chairman.

The health and wellbeing said Walden, who once led the now-defunct Home Retail Group, would work on a “strategic plan” for new growth.

Walden was chief executive of Home Retail Group from 2014 to 2016, and he oversaw the sale of Argos and Habitat to Sainsbury’s, and Homebase to Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers.

While Argos and Habitat have helped boost Sainsbury’s underlying profits, Wesfarmers’ foray in the UK market was deemed a “disaster” by industry experts and was sold to Hilco for just £1 earlier this year.

Walden said Holland & Barrett “must change quickly” to adapt to the current retail climate.

“Yet Holland & Barrett is a strong retail business with a trusted brand, and participating in a growing health and wellness sector,” he said.

“With this foundation, I am optimistic about our opportunities to develop winning strategies and continue to grow.”

Holland & Barrett has been expanding its store footprint and digital operations in recent years, fuelled by a rise in popularity for vegan, gluten-free and other alternative diets.

For its financial year ending September, annual revenue was up 7.1 per cent to £702.5 million, boosted by 66 new store openings.

There are now 1,077 Holland & Barrett stores around the world, of which 830 are in the UK and Ireland.

Meanwhile, like-for-like sales increased by 3.9 per cent, a slowdown from the 4.6 per cent growth seen in 2017.

Nonetheless, the retailer has now enjoyed 38 consecutive quarters of sales growth.

Underlying earnings also increased 1.3 per cent to £152.1 million.

This is the first trading update that covers a full year under new owners L1 Retail, which bought Holland & Barrett in mid-2017 for £1.8 billion.

“Looking forward under our new owners, I am confident that we are well positioned to drive transformation in the face of digital disruption,” chief executive Peter Aldis said.

“We expect that 2019 will also be a year of continued investment in the business to provide our customers with the most trusted and innovative range of health and wellness solutions.”

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