Chairman and chief executive of N Brown exit

Kasmira Jefford
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N BROWN announced yesterday that both its long-standing chairman, Lord Alliance of Manchester and chief executive Alan White will be retiring from the catalogue and online shopping group.

Lord Alliance, the Liberal Democrat peer and the founder of textile company Coats, said the retailer “had come a long way” since he bought the Manchester-based mail order firm JD Williams in 1963. More than half of the group’s sales are now online.

“The company is in great shape, and will benefit from an injection of new blood and new ideas,” he said.

Lord Alliance will be replaced by former Tesco director Andrew Higginson in September, but he will stay on as a non-executive director.

Higginson will be in charge of looking for a replacement for White, who after 25 years at the group and 10 as chief executive said he planned to leave in the second half of next year.

The shake-up came as the retailer, whose brands including FigLeaves, Simply Be, Jacamo, Marisota and High and Mighty, reported that like-for-like sales rose 1.9 per cent in the 17 weeks to 30 June.

Although that was ahead of growth of 0.6 per cent in the eight weeks to 28 April the mix of sales meant gross margin was one per cent lower than the firm had anticipated.

White said the wet weather had led to disappointing sales of ladieswear, its highest margin category, while menswear, lingerie and homeware all showed growth in the period.