House of Fraser's Oxford Street store

LONDON – Nigel Oddy has resigned as chief executive officer of the British retail chain House of Fraser after less than two years in the role.

A company spokesperson confirmed that Oddy plans to leave in 2017 to pursue “new opportunities.” He is to remain with the business until his replacement is appointed to ensure a smooth transition.

The spokesperson said House of Fraser “continues to trade in line with management expectations, and is confident it is well-positioned for Christmas, with trading over the Black Friday period to date already showing improvement on last year.”

Oddy, who replaced John King as ceo of the Chinese-owned store, is the latest manager to depart. As reported, Jacqueline Hay left her role as executive director, apparel and accessories at House of Fraser, moving to Michael Kors, where she is retail vice president of buying and planning, Europe.

According to British media reports, House of Fraser’s owner Yuan Yafei of Sanpower has not made good on promises to invest in the store or in international expansion, and has little understanding of the retail business generally. Sanpower purchased House of Fraser two years ago.

A source close to House of Fraser said that Sanpower has committed to support the store “in the event that the business development plans required them, and the board requested them,” and that “possible capital expenditure programs” are under review.

The store has been running on funds from a bond issue last year, and its own cash generation. At House of Fraser, first half sales were flat, while profits fell nearly 50 percent to 5 million pounds, or $7.1 million, in the six months to July.

Oddy joined House of Fraser in January 2007, and was named chief operating officer in January 2013, also taking responsibility for the company’s international operations.

Before joining, he held senior positions at retailers including Marks & Spencer, where he was involved in retail, buying and merchandising. He set up the sourcing office for M&S and ran the retailer’s operation in Hong Kong.

When he took over the House of Fraser job in February 2015 Oddy said he would build on his predecessor’s strategy to drive international expansion and continue investments in stores, brands, and the multi-channel offering.

The store has tried hard to stay ahead of the omni-channel curve, opening a showroom in partnership with Caffé Nero, where customers can have their coffee downstairs, and place orders or collect merchandise upstairs. It has also been working with the coffee chain on other click-and-collect services. Earlier this year, it launched an interactive catalogue using augmented reality.

It has not been an easy year for heritage British high street retailers: Last spring, BHS and Austin Reed were both placed into administration, the U.K. equivalent of Chapter 11, within days of each other.

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green remains locked in a battle with U.K. pensions authorities over the multi-million pounds hole in the defunct retailer’s pension fund.

 

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