All the current female executives in UK retail

As we celebrate Women's History Month, Retail Gazette highlights the leaders of major retail brands who are paving the way for other female executives in UK retail industry.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, Retail Gazette highlights the few female executives who are paving the way for other females in the retail industry.
These are the current female executives in UK retail.

Dame Sharon White – Chair, John Lewis Partnership

Early last year – just a few weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic crisis really escalated in the UK, in fact – Dame Sharon White assumed the role of chair of the John Lewis Partnership, the staff-owned retail giant that operates the John Lewis and Waitrose chains.

She replaced Sir Charlie Mayfield, and despite not having any retail background has made various changes across the business during her time at the helm.

John Lewis Partnership Waitrose shop-in-shops Sharon White
Sharon White joined as John Lewis Partnership chairwoman in early 2020.

Jacqueline Gold – CEO, Ann Summers

Jacqueline Gold is the chief executive of Ann Summers and has been so since since 1993.

Credited for transforming the retailer into a more female-centric, female-positive business, Gold is regularly named as one of the most powerful women in UK retail.

Helena Helmersson – CEO, H&M Group

Helena Helmersson made history last year when she become the Swedish retail giant’s first female chief executive.

Helmersson previously held the positions of head of sustainability, global head of production and latterly as chief operating officer.

H&M Group owns many well-known retailers that are present in UK high streets and shopping centres, including Arket, Weekday, Cos, Monki, H&M Home, & Other Stories, Afound and H&M itself.

Rita-Rose Gagné – CEO, Hammerson

Rita-Rose Gagné was appointed chief executive and executive director of the retail property business in November last year.

Before joining Hammerson, Gagné was president of growth markets at the global real estate company Ivanhoé Cambridge where she had responsibility for £7.6 billion of real estate assets across Asia Pacific and Latin America.

Rita-Rose Gagné to succeed Atkins as Hammerson CEO - Real Asset Insight

Clare Davenport – CEO, Notonthehighstreet

Claire Davenport is chief executive of Notonthehighstreet, an online retailer and marketplace that houses many of the UK’s small creative businesses.


Julia Straus – CEO, Sweaty Betty

Julia Straus became Sweaty Betty’s chief executive last year after joining the activewear retailer in August 2018, taking over from co-founder Simon Hill-Norton.

Brie Read– Founder, Snag Tights

Brie Read first created her ecommerce business in 2015 and six years later Snag’s turnover is expected to reach £40 million.

She currently employs 40 people in manufacturing the tights in Italy and 33 in its “virtual” head office.

Maternity Tights – Snag Tights
Pictured: Snag Tights’ maternity collection

Maria Raga – CEO & founder, Depop

Maria Raga has been chief executive at Depop since 2016.

Prior to that she was the operations vice president at the London-based social shopping app.

Raga was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Bold Woman Awards, which honours the impact of female leadership, innovation and entrepreneurism across the UK. Judges were impressed with Depop’s huge growth under Raga’s leadership, particularly over the past 12 months.

Ann Steer – CEO, Freemans

Ann Steer, the former chief customer officer at the N Brown Group, is the current chief executive of Freemans, the British online and catalogue clothing retailer headquartered in Bradford, England.

Profile photo of Ann Steer

Jo Whitfield – CEO, Co-op Food

Jo Whitfield joined the Co-op as retail finance director in 2016 and was appointed chief executive of its grocery and food division in 2017.

Prior to this, Whitfield was with Asda for eight years and held a number of leadership positions across the business.

Leanne Cahill – CEO, Bravissimo

Bravissimo promoted its managing director Leanne Cahill to the role of chief executive last December.

Before joining the Bravissimo team, she spent three years in finance roles at Travelex and more than five years at Boots.

Leanne Cahill

Manju Malhotra – CEO, Harvey Nichols

At the start of the year Manju Malhotra was promoted to the role of chief executive at Harvey Nichols.

Malhotra had been the department store’s chief operating officer since 2018.

Harvey Nichols names Manju Malhotra ceo - BW Confidential

Hannah Colman – CEO, Jimmy Choo

Hannah Colman was officially named chief executive at Jimmy Choo in September last year after acting as interim CEO.

Colman has been one of the retailer’s earliest employees, joining 24 years ago as store manager in the first Jimmy Choo boutique on Motcomb Street in London.

From there she progressed into a number of roles, including president EMEA and global ecommerce.

Jimmy Choo Promotes Company Veteran Hannah Colman to CEO – WWD

Jo Jenkins – CEO, White Stuff

Jo Jenkins has been chief executive of White Stuff since 2015.

Since the beginning of the pandemic she has focused on transforming the business into a modern multichannel retailer.

M&S clothing boss Jenkins in surprise departure, to be White Stuff CEO - News : distribution (#884030)

Anne Pitcher – MD, Selfridges Group

Ann Pitcher has had a lifelong career in the retail industry and joined the Selfridges team in 2004.

She was then promoted to managing director of the luxury retail group in 2019, overseeing 26 stores in four countries, including Arnotts and Brown Thomas in Ireland, De Bijenkorf in The Netherlands, Holt Renfrew in Canada and Selfridges in the UK.

Selfridges MD Anne Pitcher wins prestigious business award

Pippa Wicks – Executive Director, John Lewis

The John Lewis Partnership announced the appointment of Pippa Wicks as executive director for its department store chain in June last year.

She joined the partnership from the Co-op Group where she held the position of deputy chief executive.

Wicks is now the fifth woman to join the eight-strong board at the John Lewis Partnership and reports to Dame Sharon White, chair of the partnership.

John Lewis Partnership hires Pippa Wicks as John Lewis executive director

Rachel Osbourne – CEO, Ted Baker 

Rachel Osbourne joined Ted Baker as chief financial officer in November 2019 and was appointed chief executive officer a year ago.

With more than 20 years of brand and retail sector experience, she joined Ted Baker from Debenhams, where she held the role of chief financial officer.

Rachel Osborne

Susie McCabe – Co-CEO, McArthurGlen 

In 2018 Susie McCabe was appointed deputy chief executive officer of the McArthurGlen Group, the owner, developer and manager of designer of several outlet villages and shopping centres across the UK and Europe.

Prior to this, she held the position of senior vice president of global retail at Under Armour and spent 16 years with Ralph Lauren in a number of senior positions.

Susie McCabe appointed Deputy Chief Executive Officer at McArthurGlen Group | McArthurGlen Designer Outlets

Jan Marchant – CEO, Tesco’s F&F clothing 

Last year Tesco promoted Jan Marchant to the chief executive position for its F&F clothing label.

Marchant started her career at Topshop and had stints as a senior buyer at Etam and head of ladieswear buying at Mackays before she moved to Tesco in 2002 as UK buying director.

She worked her way up to F&F Europe design director 2011 and was made creative and digital director in 2017.

jan Marchant

Sarah Welsh – Retail CEO, N Brown Group

Sarah was appointed N Brown Group’s retail chief executive in March last year, bringing with her over 25 years of retail and brand experience within the UK high street.

Welsh started her career on the shop floor, before progressing into senior buying roles at both River Island, Miss Selfridge and Oasis.

Executive Board – N Brown Group plc

Emma Bridgewater – Founder, Emma Bridgewater

Emma set-up the Stoke-on-Trent pottery bhsiness in 1985 and today the online retailer employs more than 350 people in Stoke-on-Trent and London.

The now £20 million business produces more than 44,000 pieces of handmade, hand-decorated pottery from a renovated 19th century factory in Hanley which are sold online via its online store as well as at independent stockists and John Lewis and Liberty London.

Pottery firm Emma Bridgewater secures £8m investment - Business Live

Anya Hindmarch

Anya Hindmarch founded her eponymous fashion label and retail chain in 1987 and grew it into a global business.

She regained co-ownership and returned to the helm of the company in 2019 after stepping down in 2011.

Stephanie Judge – MD, Victorian Plumbing

Stephnie Judge became the managing director of bathroom retailer Victorian Plumbing, which is headquartered in Liverpool, at the start of March last year.

Samantha Helligsø – CEO, MissPap

Helligso joined Misspap at the start of 2020 to take on the role of chief executive at the online fashion retailer, which is now owned by Boohoo Group.

Prior to this, she started her career as Boohoo fashion marketing manager in 2008, then left in 2011 to join Bench as creative marketing manager.

She then joined Missguided in 2012 as creative manager for seven years, before being promoted to head of brand in 2016, and brand director in 2018.

boohoo group appoints Samantha Helligso as CEO of MissPap - Fashion & Beauty InsightFashion & Beauty Insight

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  1. Debbie Robinson, CEO of Central England Co-operative, should be on the list. She was previously MD of Spar UK, Head of Food Marketing for the Co-operative Group and also currently serves as Chair of the Association of Convenience Stores.

  2. Sad you missed out Mel Smith CBE, CEO of Ocado. She got her CBE for retailing….unless of course Ocado aren’t a major retailer?

    • I’m not sure why they missed this many considering some of those in their report are on a much less turnover lead leaders.


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