January 28, 2015

Foyles gets a new CEO

by

Husain, in front of Foyles' iconic sign

Sam Husain, in front of Foyles’ iconic sign

Foyles is to have a new CEO as Sam Husain, its current head, retires and is replaced by Paul Currie.

Husain has been at the helm of the bookseller for eight years but will step down on his 68th birthday in April, The Bookseller reports. He will oversee a handover from 16th February, continuing to work in the company until 30th April, after which he will remain as a non-executive director of the independent book chain.

Paul Currie was formerly COO at Hamleys, London’s most famous toy store, as well as global vice president of retail sales and operations for Molton Brown, makers of fancy soaps and beauty products. It’s clear that Currie is an expert in the British highstreet, having begun his career managing Marks and Spencer branches before overseeing the retailer’s expansion into France. He’s also worked at River Island and consulted for brands such as Cath Kidston, the White Company and Crabtree and Evelyn.

Although his plans for Foyles remain to be seen, Currie’s past experience hints at future direction for Foyles. His is a CV that boasts thorough knowledge of British businesses and brands, and particularly brands that have successfully expanded in recent times. Foyles announced last week that it would be opening a new store in Birmingham, only its second store outside of the capital other than its Bristol branch.

What’s more, Currie’s focus has been on physical stores, giving him important insight into how the highstreet works and how to run bricks and mortar shops successfully.  It’s a good sign that Foyles remains committed to staying on the highstreet and offering customers experiences and services that cannot be matched by online competitors.

Husain will be leaving Foyles in good order. As well as announcing the new Birmingham store, Husain led the company through the opening of the new flagship store on Charing Cross Road, which resulted in a supremely successful Christmas for the bookseller, as well as an outpouring of love for the institution.  When he took over as CEO, his first job was simply to return the bookstore to profit. While Husain has been CEO, Foyles has won Bookseller of the Year at the prestigious Bookseller Industry Awards four times, and won Children’s Bookseller of the Year in 2012.

The Guardian noted Husain’s achievements, which went against the initial scepticism when Husain, an accountant, took on the job:

Husain, an accountant who once claimed he had never really “read a book from cover to cover”, is credited with helping to complete the transformation of Foyles from old-fashioned bookseller into a sleek modern retailer with ambitions beyond its traditional Charing Cross base. It now has four shops in London and one in Bristol, and plans to open a branch in Birmingham in September.

Husain also revealed that he considered one of his biggest successes to be in improving the financial structure of the company, behind-the-scenes:

That was where my task was, in looking at financial stability in the company…creating a financial management team and making it a core part of the business, making the business work for itself, looking at basic metrics and looking at new opportunities. At the moment physical book seems to have had a resurgence and the opportunities are endless.

Currie’s own comments to The Bookseller chimed with Husain’s final point:

If you look at the brand of Foyles and measure the brand equity against the perception of the brand, there is a lot of difference. People think Foyles is a lot bigger than it actually is. There is real potential for Foyles to grow into that.

 

Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.

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