// Debenhams CEO Stefaan Vansteenkiste steps down from position but will continue working for the retailer
// Now that Debenhams stores can reopen, he is making the long trailed transition from CEO back to consultant
// Vansteenkiste was first appointed CEO last August on an interim basis
Debenhams chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste has stepped down from his position but will continue to work for the department store chain as a consultant.
Retail Gazette understands that Vansteenkiste is in the process of making the long-trailed transition from chief executive back to consultant now that Debenhams’ stores are set to exit lockdown from June 15.
As consultant, it is understood he would be advising chairman Mark Gifford as he steers Debenhams into the next phase of its turnaround.
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Retail Gazette has contacted Debenhams for comment and clarity on whether it will seek a new, permanent chief executive.
Vansteenkiste first joined Debenhams in April last year as chief restructuring officer, soon after the department store was bought out of administration by a consortium of lenders known as Celine.
A former restructuring specialist from Alvarez & Marsal, Vansteenkiste was then appointed chief executive in August on an interim basis – after Terry Duddy resigned as executive chairman that month – to help steer the retailer’s CVA at the time.
Last month, Debenhams fell into administration for the second time within a year as a protective measure against creditors demanding their money amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With Vansteenkiste stepping aside, it is understood that Debenhams’ day-to-day operations will be led by administrators from FRP Advisory along with existing the executive team, including chief financial officer Mike Hazell and managing director Steven Cook.
Yesterday, news emerged that Debenhams was poised to cut hundreds of head office jobs as it prepared to reopen from June 15 with 90 stores initially, followed by another 30 over summer – pending ongoing discussions with landlords.
However, bosses plan to reopen with a slimmed down head office – which employs around 3000 people – as staff leave from mechandising, buying, design and HR departments, according to initial reports by Reuters.
The retailer did not confirm exactly how many positions would go, beyond saying in the “hundreds”.
Debenhams already confirmed it would permanently shut down 17 of them, with thousands of job losses estimated as a result.
As it prepares to exit lockdown, bosses are expected to learn the lessons from Debenhams’ Danish stores, trading as Magasin du Nord, which has already reopened following easing of lockdown restrictions in the country.
Protective equipment for colleagues, guidelines to manage changing rooms, queuing systems, shorter hours and fewer services are all understood to be under consideration.