Crisis point of the COO of AllSaints
Ahead of his appearance at the ICAS Insights: The Business of Retail event, COO Peter Wood explains how a 'grounded approach' turned the fate of fashion retailer AllSaints around.
Peter Wood CA is Chief Operating Officer with international fashion retail group AllSaints, which last year reported 18% earnings lift to £28.5m. AllSaints operates in 22 countries and plans to expand further in the near future.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the British brand, however. When Peter joined as chief financial officer in September 2010 he soon realised that the brand faced severe liquidity challenges because it had been overstretching itself, having opened too many stores in new markets too quickly, without a strong equity capital base upon which to expand.
It needed a grounded approach from someone like me.
Peter’s first action was to kick-start a process that led to private equity house Lion Capital rescuing the brand with a £105m investment. He says he was brought in at the time to “make a balanced assessment based on the reality of where the brand actually was, rather than based on the hope that everyone felt”.
Peter says: “It needed a grounded approach from someone like me. There was nothing wrong with the brand, and that’s been borne out by how the brand developed once the liquidity challenges were resolved.”
After around a year restructuring the finances, Peter stepped up temporarily as interim Chief Executive Officer for a 12-month period to support Lion Capital in getting the brand back into profitability, before moving back into the role of CFO. He was promoted to COO, AllSaints Retail, in September 2016.
Last year, under CEO William Kim and Peter Wood, AllSaints reported an 18 per cent earnings lift to £28.5m, thanks to a 9 per cent rise in sales to £252.5m. The US and Asia provided much of the increase in sales but the British market also fared relatively well.
Despite the recent uplift in profits and sales, Peter does not underestimate the current economic climate or what the company is competing against to secure sales. “We are humble enough to appreciate that nobody needs a new jacket or pair of jeans, or another shirt or dress. We realise that there are lots of ways that people can spend money to feel good, and if someone has £500 to spend, then we’re competing against a weekend in Barcelona as well as the other fashion brands,” he says.
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