October 22, 2014 / 6:24 AM / 5 years ago

SuperGroup founder steps aside as Sutherland named CEO

LONDON (Reuters) - SuperGroup Plc SGP.L, the British company behind the Superdry fashion brand, named ex-Co-op Group boss Euan Sutherland as its new chief executive on Wednesday, replacing Julian Dunkerton who founded the company on a market stall 30 years ago.

Sutherland, who has more than 19 years experience in the retail sector with roles at the likes of home improvement chain B&Q, electricals group Dixons (DC.L) and fizzy drinks maker Coca-Cola (KO.N), had been a non-executive director at SuperGroup for two years and will be charged with overseeing its international expansion.

Dunkerton, who started the business in 1985 on a market stall in Cheltenham, southwest England, before floating it on the stock market in 2010, will move to the new role of founder and product and brand director with immediate effect.

“With the number of opportunities SuperGroup has available and the increasing complexity of the business, now is the right time to bring in a CEO of Euan’s calibre,” Dunkerton said in a statement.

Shares in the firm, whose trademark jackets, hooded tops, check shirts and jogging bottoms are popular with twentysomethings as well as celebrities such as David Beckham, were down 3.5 percent to 992p at 0740 GMT. They fell as low as 986p, their lowest level since August.

Dunkerton, who still holds a 32.22 percent stake in the company, will focus on developing the group’s product ranges and protecting its brand as it expands internationally.

“Really it is the creative side that I feel I add best value. So to deliver the huge international opportunity that we have, this was the most logical decision that I could possibly make, personally and for the business,” Dunkerton told Reuters.

EXPANSION EVERYWHERE

Superdry products are sold in more than 100 countries via its 135 UK and European standalone retail stores, as well as via concessions, franchised and licensed stores and its website.

The firm has said it has expansion plans “everywhere”, with the main focus of a European rollout on Germany and markets such as the United States and China offering big potential.

Sutherland, who quit as boss of the embattled Co-Op group in March after just 10 months in the role, describing the company as an “ungovernable” organisation, said he was relishing the chance to plot SuperGroup’s expansion over the next five to 10 years.

“There is a tremendous set of opportunities ahead of us,” he told Reuters, adding he was sat almost “head-to-toe” in Superdry gear.

Analyst Kate Calvert at brokerage Investec welcomed the management shuffle and reiterated her “buy” rating on the stock, although she cut her full-year pretax profit forecast by 4 percent to due the mild start to the autumn season that has affected demand for warm clothing at a number of retailers.

“Euan has a formidable retail reputation and a wealth of experience. We believe this shuffle gives insight into the board’s thinking on the future brand opportunity as it internationalises,” Calvert said.

Last month SuperGroup forecast a year of profit growth, as sales rose 16 percent in its first quarter, and it said its autumn-winter season had started well.

(1 US dollar = 0.6205 British pound)

Editing by Kate Holton and David Holmes

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