The number of women hired as chief executives of UK retailers rose to a record high last year.
Thirteen female leaders were hired to the top job of UK retailers in 2022, which equates to 31% of the 42 appointments made, according to management consultancy Korn Ferry.
Retail Gazette looks into the new intake of female CEOs.
Lyssa McGowan, chief executive, Pets at Home
Pets at Home hired Sky chief consumer officer Lyssa McGowan as its new chief executive. She took over from Peter Pritchard in June.
McGowan, who sat on the board of Morrisons until its sale to CD&R in 2021, has broad experience of managing product, service and subscription-led businesses. She also has expertise in data and digital transformation.
In November, after her first six months at the helm, she was “more convinced that Pets at Home is well positioned to capitalise on an attractive growth opportunity in our structurally growing pet care market, supported by our unique blend of products and services, deeply embedded culture and expert, passionate colleagues, and partners”.
McGowan is looking to boost Pets at Home’s focus on the customer.
She has unveiled plans to create a new “consumer function” arm combining the company’s digital, marketing and customer value proposition teams, led by a newly created role of chief consumer officer.
Maddie Smith, managing director, The Body Shop UK and Ireland
Last January, The Body Shop hired Estée Lauder’s US retail boss Maddie Smith to lead its UK operation.
Smith was previously retail vice-president for North America for Estée Lauder, which also owns brands including Clinique, Bobbi Brown and Mac, and she has more than 25 years experience in beauty retail, including positions at L’Occitane, Superdrug owner AS Watson and Boots.
She is currently helping to give The Body Shop a makeover, which involves upgrading and improving its product range and a introducing swathe of new store formats.
Helen Connolly, chief executive, New Look
Prior to New Look, Connolly was the chief executive of Bonmarché for four years.
She has worked for some of the UK’s largest fashion retailers and was director of buying, womenswear and lingerie for George at Asda and head of buying at Dorothy Perkins.
During her time as CCO, Helen worked on improving both product and efficiencies across New Look’s buying and merchandising, as well as creating and driving partnership and concessions opportunities.
Hannah Gibson, chief executive, Ocado Retail
Ocado hired the chief product officer of its tech division Hannah Gibson to take the helm of its grocery division in September.
Gibson, who replaced Mel Smith, has been at Ocado for a decade and helped set the strategy for its proprietary tech, Ocado Smart Platform.
Prior to this she was senior policy advisor at No10 Downing Street and a business development manager at Waitrose.
Upon her appointment, Marks & Spencer CEO Stuart Machin, who is a joint venture partner in Ocado Retail, said Gibson “combines a clear passion for product and customer, with an exceptional working knowledge of Ocado’s proprietary technology”.
”This experience makes her the ideal candidate to unlock the huge potential that remains in our joint venture and lead our partnership into the next phase of growth.”
Roisin Currie, chief executive, Greggs
Greggs revealed that it would promote retail and property director Roisin Currie to CEO, replacing long-time leader Roger Whiteside.
Currie, who took the helm in May, has been at Greggs since 2010.
Prior to Greggs, she spent 20 years working at Asda, where she held roles including retail people director and distribution people director.
Currie is also chair of the Employers Forum for Reducing Re-offending.
Shirine Khoury-Haq, chief executive, The Co-op
She held the role on an interim basis beforehand, taking over permanently from Steve Murrells earlier this year.
Khoury-Haq first joined the group in the summer of 2019 as chief financial officer and has previously been COO at Lloyd’s of London for five years.
She also worked for firms including IBM and McDonalds earlier in her career and was a non-executive director at the Post Office.
Leanne Rothwell, CEO, NotOnTheHighStreet.com
NotOnTheHighStreet.com promoted chief commercial officer Leanne Rothwell to the top job last September, replacing Claire Davenport.
Rothwell has spent 10 years at the gifts retailer, starting as head of account management in 2012.
She helped to grow the marketplace’s army of sellers from 1,000 to 5,000 during her tenure.
Rothwell has made some tough decisions during her few months in the top seat, including cutting some jobs.
Earlier this month, she revealed that “a number of people” will leave the business as it restructures.
Jan Marchant, managing director, clothing and home, Tesco
Tesco promoted its F&F clothing arm chief executive, Jan Marchant, to managing director of home and clothing across the grocer last October.
Marchant, who has led F&F clothing since July 2020, joined the grocer‘s clothing arm as buying director in 2007.
She has risen through ranks, becoming design director in 2014, before taking on the creative and digital director post in 2017.
Sarah Boyd, UK managing director, Sephora
Sephora appointed Sarah Boyd as managing director of its UK business back in December, just two months after the LVMH-owned beauty giant re-entered the UK market with its website launch.
Boyd joined Sephora in 2018 and has held the position of general manager of Southeast Asia and Oceania, as well as vice president, head of markets and new ventures for South East Asia Pacific.
She was based out of Singapore and had responsibility for 16 countries.
However, beauty industry expert Boyd – who had previous worked for L’Oréal and Bourjois – is delighted to be back in the UK.
When she was given her new role, she wrote on LinkedIn: “Back to my home country, and without a doubt one of the most advanced and discerning beauty markets in the world.
“I’m ready to work with the Feelunique team to continue their journey to bring the Sephora magic to the UK.”
She has a busy few months ahead as Sephora is set to open a flagship store at Westfield London this spring.
Sarah Miles, chief executive, Hush
Former Feelunique CEO Sarah Miles was named as boss of womenswear retailer Hush late last year.
Miles, who took the helm at Hush earlier this month, spent 25 years working in retail, including a five year stint at Amazon.
She led home and garden, and then fashion and private label, at the online giant before joining beauty etailer FeelUnique in 2019, where she helped to oversee its sale to Sephora.
Miles said she had “long admired” Hush “for its outstanding customer connection and truly differentiated product proposition”.
Hush chair Susanne Given said: “Sarah has an outstanding track record across some of the world’s leading consumer businesses and I have no doubt Hush will continue to thrive under her leadership.
“Sarah brings not only vast experience of driving strategic growth across several great retailers but also a broad international perspective and a deep passion for sustainability and purpose-led brands.”
Alison Hands, chief executive, Lincolnshire Co-op
Wilko managing director Alison Hands was hired by Lincolnshire Co-op to replace Ursula Lidbetter as CEO.
Hands, who formally takes over in April this year, has decades of retail experience.
She had been at Wilko since 2018, working her way up from commercial execution director to trading director and then to MD. She previously worked at M&S, The Body Shop, and Boots.
Hands said: “I’m honoured to be joining this values-driven organisation, which continues to build on its success, whilst delivering its purpose to make life better in communities.
“I’m excited to be charged with leading the society through the next phase of its development, as we collectively tackle the challenges of the current external environment.”
Alison Loehnis, interim chief executive, Yoox Net-a-Porter
Net-a-Porter veteran Alison Loehnis took the helm of the wider Yoox-Net-a-Porter (YNAP) group on an interim basis in October.
Loehnis, who was previously president of Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter & The Outnet, has spent more than 15 years at the online fashion giant.
During her pioneer, she pioneered the introduction of broader product categories and expansion into new markets across the Net-a-Porter business.
Loehnis will lead the business until owner YNAP Richemont’s sale of its majority stake in the business to Farfetch completes at the end of the year.
At that point an external CEO will be appointed.
Loehnis, who also sits on the board of athleisure giant Lululemon, has previously held positions at LVMH, Hachette Filipacchi, The Walt Disney Company after starting her career in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi.
Karen Bird, interim CEO, McColl’s
Karen Bird was hired by Morrisons on an interim basis to lead the integration of its new acquisition, convenience store group McColl’s, which it snapped up in May last year.
Bird was previously chief operating officer at McColl’s, although she ran the group on an interim basis when former CEO Jonathan Miller left the business in March last year.
Prior to joining McColl’s in 2016, Bird spent over 20 years with Big 4 grocer Tesco in both HR and operational positions.