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Debenhams CFO departs as tough trading hits home

DEBENHAMS’ CFO has stepped down, days after the retailer released a profit warning.
Simon Herrick has resigned from his role, and will leave the company on 7 February. His departures caps a tough week for Debenhams, after being accused of issuing a ‘Santa tax’ on its key suppliers, then issuing a profit warning.

A letter from Herrick had called on the own-brand suppliers to make a contribution – calculated at a 2.5% discount on Debenhams’ open orders – towards Debenhams’ refurbishments, according to reports. The retailer denied it was an attempt to boost its trading figures.

On 31 December it revealed an expected profit before tax of £85m for the first half of its financial year, following worse than expected Christmas trading, compared to £114.7m in the corresponding period a year earlier. Debenhams blamed declining high street footfall, an “unprecedented level” of promotional activity, continued pressure on household incomes and the impact of unseasonal weather on clothing-related sales.

A search to find Simon’s replacement is underway. Neil Kennedy, director of finance, will assume the role of acting chief financial officer on an interim basis.

Michael Sharp, chief executive of Debenhams, said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Simon for his hard work and contribution over the past two years. We wish him well in the future.”

Debenhams share price has fallen to 72.2p from 93p in the last month, valuing the company at £885.27m by market cap.

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