LONDON — Jane Shepherdson has stepped down as chief executive officer of the British high street retailer Whistles following its sale earlier this year to South Africa’s Foschini Group.
This story first appeared in the September 14, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During her eight-year tenure, Shepherdson repositioned the brand, and expanded its reach and both in the U.K. and internationally. She opened shops-in-shops at Bloomingdale’s, launched men’s wear and staged runway shows during London Fashion Week. The company entered the U.S. market in 2014, the same year it launched men’s wear.
Shepherdson took over Whistles after a long stint as brand director of Topshop, which she helped to build into one of the hottest international fast-fashion retailers.
Whistles said it returned to profitability in 2016, after experiencing challenging trading conditions last year thanks to robust margin growth and careful management of the cost base. It has more than 40 stand-alone stores in the U.K. and is sold in department stores including Selfridges, Harrods and Printemps.
Shepherdson will be replaced by a team led by brand director Helen Williamson, managing director Justin Hampshire and creative director Nick Passmore. The company said Shepherdson would continue to work on charity projects and is planning to travel, with plans to spend time on the West Coast of the United States.
Separately, Darren Topp has been named ceo of fellow British fashion brand and retailer L.K. Bennett. Topp succeeds interim chief executive officer Robert Bensoussan, who will stay on as a non-executive director. Bensoussan remains the brand’s shareholder of reference.
L.K. Bennett has also named Michael Hitchcock as chief financial officer. Hitchcock succeeds Alison Egan.
“Having been an investor in L.K. Bennett since 2008, and having spent the last two years as interim ceo, now is the right time for me to step back into a non-executive role,” said Bensoussan.
Sir Philip Green sold BHS last year for 1 pound, $1.33, to Dominic Chappell, an investor with no retail experience. The company remains under the spotlight because of the nature of the sale, and its gaping pension fund deficit, which Green has vowed to help fill.
Topp, who had previously worked for BHS under Green and who helmed the retailer for barely a year under the new owners, gave evidence during a parliamentary hearing into its collapse. He accused BHS’ latest owner, the twice-bankrupt former race car driver Dominic Chappell, of misconduct and mismanagement.
Prior to joining BHS, Topp spent two decades at Marks & Spencer in a variety of leadership positions, including as divisional executive, head of human resources and in regional and store manager roles.
Hitchcock has worked for companies including Beales and Moss Bros. Most recently, he was a financial consultant for BHS.
“Darren and Michael have an exceptionally strong retail background, and will be instrumental in driving the business through its next stage of development,” said Patrick Woodall, chairman of L.K. Bennett.