UK Sees Dramatic Drop in Retail CEO Turnover

Only 18 Retail CEOs were Appointed in 2021, the Lowest Number Recorded in Ten Years

LONDON, 1 February 2022 –The United Kingdom saw a seismic drop in the number of newly appointed retail CEOs in 2021, according to a new report by Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY).

The report analysed U.K. retail companies with annual revenues in excess of £50m. Of those companies, only 18 retail CEOs were appointed in the U.K. last year. That was a 54 percent drop from 2020, when 33 retail CEOs were appointed, which had been an historically low number versus previous years.

“In the first half of 2021 we saw very low retail CEO turnover,” said Sarah Lim, Korn Ferry Managing Director, Retail Board and CEO Services, EMEA. “Interestingly, there was a significant shift in the second half of the year, when we saw a dramatic increase in the volume of new CEO recruitment. Many of the organisations that commenced new CEO searches in the latter part of last year have yet to announce these new CEOs, so we expect to see an increase in the number of CEOs appointed in 2022.”

Only two ethnic minority CEOs were appointed last year, which was the same number as 2020. In addition, only four female retail CEOs were appointed in U.K. retail in 2021, half the number from the previous year.

“We know that organisations with diverse leadership perform at a higher rate than those that do not,” said Lim. “It’s critical that boards work to bring more diverse candidates into the recruiting mix.”

Eleven of the 18 (61%) of the 2021 newly appointed CEOs were first-time CEOs. All except two were internally promoted. All the new CEOs came from within the retail sector.

More than a third (38%) of the former CEOs had been in the office for three years or fewer.

“It is interesting to note the short tenure of many of the departing CEOs,” said Lim. “Whilst in some cases this was a result of planned succession or internal promotion, for several others this was indicative of business distress, board dissent or dissatisfaction with leadership.”

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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