Another week, another significant departure from Arcadia. This time it’s long-serving Evans boss Fiona Ross who will step down after almost 30 years with the group and nearly a decade as managing director of the women’s fashion chain.
News of her departure comes hot on the heels of Mary Homer’s decision to leave Topshop to take up the chief executive role at The White Company, and follows a spate of recent exits from Arcadia that includes Burton managing director Wesley Taylor and Miss Selfridge creative director Yasmin Yusuf.
It’s easy to seize on such an exodus as evidence of problems at the top of Arcadia. That may well be the case – the group has not historically had a large turnover of senior staff and so a raft of resignations is bound to raise eyebrows, especially when the departure of Taylor was reported to have been somewhat acrimonious.
But there may also be a domino effect at play here where one significant departure leads to other long serving employees reflecting on their own circumstances and future career plans. Both Ross and Homer have spent most of their working lives at Arcadia and perhaps felt it was time for a change of scenery.
Nevertheless, Arcadia is clearly in a state of flux. Ross is being replaced by Anne Secunda, who will combine running Evans with her current role as managing director of stablemate Wallis. It remains to be seen whether such an arrangement is sustainable in the long-term and it may prove to be a stop gap until a permanent successor to Ross is found.
Such shared responsibility is not unusual within the group, however. Integration has always been a philosophy at the heart of Arcadia’s strategy. Craig McGregor, another recent leaver, held the role of retail director for both the Topman and Topshop brands, while Matt Brewster – who has also reportedly handed in his notice – currently holds the position of Topshop/Topman global commercial director. Taylor, for his part, held joint responsibilities for menswear at Burton and BHS as long ago as 2009.
Perhaps Sir Philip Green feels further integration is in the long-term interests of the group? Maybe he simply want to freshen things up? Or perhaps there is genuine discontent among his leadership team?
Whatever the truth, at a time of such upheaval it feels like a period of stability is in the interests of both Sir Philip and his fashion empire.