After four years as the top boss of pure-play fashion retailer The Iconic, Erica Berchtold will be leaving her role to become the CEO of Best & Less Group (ASX: BST) from 4 September.
Prior to taking charge of The Iconic, Berchtold spent seven years as the managing director of Super Retail Group’s (ASX: SUL) sporting goods division, where revenue grew to nearly $1 billion under her leadership. She also spent three years as the general manager for Crossroads and Autograph, overseeing roughly 300 stores across Australia.
Berchtold will receive a fixed annual remuneration of $816,903 for the new role plus incentives that could take her total pay packet up to $1.8 million.
“I am looking forward to joining Best & Less Group at such an exciting time in the company’s growth journey,” Berchtold said.
“The team has done a fantastic job to build strong foundations for future growth, and I am excited by the challenge of executing the next phase of our growth strategy.
“BLG’s brands are synonymous with quality and value and having a close affinity with mum and her family. As a mother of three young children myself I can personally attest to that and I look forward to deepening that relationship further to move us closer to our goal of being the number one choice for mums.”
Best & Less executive chair Jason Murray said the board was extremely impressed by Erica’s passion and her value creation mindset.
Murray has been leading the business since September 2022, when it was revealed CEO Rodney Orrock would step back from his role to focus on his recovery from lymphoma.
“Erica’s strong retail experience and track record of delivering profitable growth in a variety of retail markets, alongside her proven leadership skills, makes her the ideal candidate to lead the business through its next phase of growth,” Murray said.
“We look forward to working closely with Erica and BLG’s senior leadership team to deliver our strategy to extend our market position in the value retail apparel segment.”
The appointment comes almost two months after Best & Less revealed earnings dropped by 28 per cent year-on-year in 1H23 to reach $22.1 million. NPAT also fell from $20.1 million to $13.7 million.
The group attributes the loss to softer-than-expected sales, lower gross profit margin percentage and higher costs compared to the previous corresponding period (PCP) which featured widespread store closures.
Revenue was up 13 per cent to hit $324.8 million, with the retailer noting its baby category performed particularly well. However, online sales slumped by almost 30 per cent, generating $29.2 million for the period.
“As BLG prepares to move into the next growth phase of its strategic evolution, it remains committed to accelerating its investment in online, including a new customer data platform, new mobile app and consumer website design,” the company said in its first half results.
“Moving forward, BLG’s growth is expected to be driven by its six growth priorities, being continued market share growth in baby, kids and womenswear, achieving above market online sales growth and enhancing the store network, underpinned by supply chain transformation.”
Best & Less listed on the ASX in July 2021 at $2.16 per share, which gave it a market capitalisation of $271 million at the time of its debut. Since then, the group’s shares have fallen by 19 per cent and are trading at $2.02 each at 10:30am AEST.
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