Former Pumpkin Patch boss Di Humphries has a tough task ahead as she retakes the helm at Glassons, but the company has made a smart move in bringing her back into the fray, says an analyst.
Hallenstein Glasson announced her return to the business as chief executive of the womenswear chain yesterday.
Humphries, a 25-year veteran of the retail industry on both sides of the Tasman, was previously managing director of Glassons and executive director of its NZX-listed parent company, before leaving to join Pumpkin Patch in 2012.
She left the embattled children's clothing retailer last year.
Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research Mark Lister said her appointment made sense as Humphries had plenty of experience with Glassons.
"By all accounts she was a good, solid leader [at Glassons]," Lister said. "If you look at the Hallenstein Glasson suite of brands, it's Glassons that is the problem child ... If you think back to the years when she was running it, it was arguably in better shape back in those days."
Hallenstein Glasson blamed margin pressure resulting from a lower exchange rate when it reported a 21 per cent drop in first-half profit, to $6.8 million, last month.
At that time CEO Graeme Popplewell said Glassons' New Zealand arm had been the only part of the business not to achieve positive sales growth.
"[Humphries' appointment] reflects management and the board acknowledging they need to put a bit more focus on Glassons to get that business humming again," Lister said.
"Time will tell - it's a very tough sector and there's still a lot of competition and it's only going to get more fierce."
Humphries failed to pull off a turnaround in Pumpkin Patch's fortunes during her stint there.
Pumpkin Patch reported an interim loss of $6.8 million last month. It has been struggling to gain traction in a market beset with margin-sapping discounting and increasing online competition.
It's a coup for us to get Di back.
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Supply chain challenges, including high levels of inventory, have also affected the retailer's performance in recent years.
Lister said there were "structural issues" facing Pumpkin Patch that made a turnaround highly challenging no matter who was in charge.
Popplewell said Glassons had its "most successful period" when Humphries was with the company between 2000 and 2012.
"The board and I are confident that Di will grow the business, improve profitability and strengthen our position in New Zealand and Australia as more global players enter these markets," he said.
"It's a coup for us to get Di back and with the focus on improving the Glassons fashion offer, Di's expertise and leadership will be key."
Humphries said her time away from the business gave her fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities it faced.
Hallenstein Glasson shares closed up 2.1 per cent at $2.90 last night.