Debenhams 'Santa tax' finance chief Simon Herrick under fire

Department store chain Debenhams is reportedly facing pressure to axe its finance chief amid increasing shareholder concern over his performance

Debenhams
Debenhams

Department store chain Debenhams is reportedly facing pressure to axe its finance chief amid increasing shareholder concern over his performance.

Several major investors in the group are understood to have voiced worries over finance director Simon Herrick – who last week came under fire over a so-called “Santa tax” move to hit suppliers with demands for a discount days before Christmas.

The retailer was accused of “bully-boy tactics” after Mr Herrick sent the letter to suppliers asking for a one-off fee worth 2.5% of outstanding payments and a 2.5% discount to orders it had already agreed. But investor criticism is said to centre around guidance provided to analysts this year, with the City shocked by a profits warning in March and unexpected costs revealed when full-year results were announced in October, according to The Times.

Pre-tax profits fell 2.7% to £154m for the year to August 31 following a tough first half after January’s snowstorms saw it alert over profits, with dismal spring weather dampening demand for new season ranges.

It was also hit by disruption caused by the refurbishment of its Oxford street store in London, which had not been fully factored in by the City, while investors were reportedly angered by £7.5m in costs related to the company’s head office move that had not been disclosed previously.

Investors are understood to have approached Debenhams chairman Nigel Northridge in recent weeks with criticisms over Mr Herrick. Debenhams was not immediately available for comment.

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