Jan 30, 2020
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New fashion's CEOs more likely to have digital analysis backgrounds says Nextail

Jan 30, 2020

If you want to get ahead in fashion and maybe one day even take the top job, then analytical experience is what you need to develop. How so? New fashion company CEOs have different talents from those of not so many years ago and the amount of digital and analytical experience they’re bringing to the businesses they run is soaring.

Data analysis and digital transformation is now a key skill for new fashion CEOs

That’s according to European smart platform for retail merchandising Nextail. In a new report, it said that analytical experience of new CEOs grew by 81% in comparison to their predecessors last year. 

The company looked at the professional backgrounds of more than 70 CEOs that began tenures last year in fashion companies with average revenues of around €2 billion. 

The report said that cross-industry CEO turnover reached an all-time high in 2019 and while fashion companies changed leadership for a variety of reasons, in 26.4% of cases, the main driver of CEO change was related to fostering growth and digital transformation.

It means that fashion CEOs are now coming from very different kinds of backgrounds and bringing a new mix of skills to their roles. 

The company said that previously, fashion CEO expertise primarily fell within the traditional skill sets of retail operations or product. That meant roles like director of operations, country manager, brand director or designer were key in the path to the top job.

But today, new CEOs "are more likely to bring increasing analytical experience” with 51.4% of them having such experience last year compared to 28.4% of their predecessors.

“The rise in CEOs with stronger analytical backgrounds reinforces a trend of data-forwardness in the fashion industry. These companies are relying more strongly on analytics and technology to drive digital transformation — a trend we're experiencing with our customers and seeing within the overall industry. In the next three years alone, retail investments in AI are expected to triple," said Joaquín Villalba, CEO of Nextail Labs.

It’s interesting too that the report also found 54.2% of the 2019 new chief executives had previous experience in the companies they now lead, which was up 18.3% from predecessors. 

That puts the fashion sector at odds with other industries where the opposite is happening as external leader appointments have outpaced internal promotions for the first time. 

Why is fashion different? Nextail thinks it shows “a level of caution around hiring fashion ‘outsiders’, and the importance of fashion industry CEOs being fully operational from day one on the job”.

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