Jonathan Akeroyd’s appointment as new Burberry chief executive should serve to ease some of the concerns surrounding the future of the fashion giant.
When predecessor Marco Gobbetti made the shock announcement in June of his plan to step down from the top job, Burberry’s share price plunged 15%, while its chairman Gerry Murphy admitted to his disappointment at losing the business’s highly-regarded leader.
In Akeroyd, however, Burberry has recruited a seasoned fashion industry leader with a track record of transforming brands into mega-labels.
As boss of Alexander McQueen between 2004 and 2016, Akeroyd revived the British label’s fortunes and spearheaded its international expansion.
He enjoyed similar success at Versace where he grew sales and improved the product assortment resulting in its sale to US label Michael Kors in 2018.
Burberry isn’t in need of root and branch reform but despite putting the business back on a strong growth trajectory, Gobbetti had yet to complete his transformation plan that focused on sharpening Burberry’s brand positioning by changing its approach to communication, customer experience and product.
This sense of a job not quite done explains some of the nervousness felt by stakeholders.
Akeroyd’s appointment ahead of his arrival in April should steady those nerves as should the news that influential designer and chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, who has played a key role in contemporising product design and broadening the brand’s appeal among younger fans, is staying put for the time being.
Like many premium fashion brands, Burberry suffered a serious hit during the pandemic as stores were forced to close and demand for luxury items waned.
The business has proved resilient, however. In July, Burberry reported that like-for-like sales had risen above pre-pandemic levels, driven by an acceleration in full price sales.
The new role at Burberry marks a return to London for Englishman Akeroyd who built his career in the luxury industry at Harrods, latterly as buying and merchandising director.
Growing online sales, which account for a small but growing proportion of turnover, is likely to be a near-term priority as CEO, as is solidifying Burberry’s status as an aspirational brand in the key Chinese and other far eastern markets where its British heritage plays well with consumers.
Akeroyd is reportedly in line to receive a £6m ‘golden hello’ in deferred cash and shares on his arrival. Burberry shareholders will be hoping his future value to the brand makes it money well spent.