Retail CEO turnover reaches 7-year high in “difficult year”

Korn Ferry CEO boardroom leadership
There was no drastic increase in the number of female CEOs appointed in 2018 compared with 2019
// CEO turnover in retail has increased, reaching a 7-year high in 2019
// The changes come amid “one of the most difficult years for the retail sector in over a decade”
// 55 CEO changes took place over the year, compared with 44 in 2018

The turnover in retail chief executives has reached a seven-year high in 2019, up 25 per cent on 2018, new research suggests.

The findings by Korn Ferry’s eighth annual UK Retail CEO Tracker report also suggested that the changes in chief executives was a reaction to “one of the most difficult years for the retail sector in over a decade”.

It added that the high turnover rate was also driven by “wavering consumer confidence, Brexit uncertainty, a general election and ongoing challenges of rent and business rates which combined to create an ‘annus horribilis’ for retail”.


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A total of 55 chief executive changes took place over the year, compared with 44 in 2018, with the exceeding number of changes taking place in the fashion, luxury and apparel categories.

Meanwhile, 38 per cent of the changes made in the past year showed that the former chief executive was in the role for less than three years, and 21 per cent of newly appointed chief executives came from a finance background.

The number of executives appointed from commercial or trading and merchandising backgrounds fell from 46 per cent to 34 per cent, and those from a retail operations background fell from 22 per cent to 13 per cent.

Moreover, the report has also raised concern over female representation in the boardroom across retail.

It said the only female chief executive of a listed retailer today is Karen Hubbard at Card Factory.

There was no drastic increase in the number of female chief executives appointed in 2018 compared with 2019.

The proportion of female representation at the top of the industry currently sits at 23 per cent.

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