Debenhams appoints former BA brand chief as CMO

Abigail Comber begins in new role this week as struggling retailer closes 19 stores.

Comber: will play 'key part' in Debenhams' turnaround
Comber: will play 'key part' in Debenhams' turnaround

Debenhams has appointed former British Airways head of brand and marketing Abigail Comber as chief marketing officer as it prepares to close 19 stores this month as part of a rescue deal.

Comber takes over from interim marketing chief Erin Brooks on Tuesday and will play a "key part" in turning around the business, Debenhams chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said.

Comber spent 24 years at British Airways, where she held a number of senior roles. Before being appointed head of brand and marketing, she was head of customer. Comber left the business in 2018 and has since held senior interim marketing roles at L3 Technologies and Oyster Yachts.

Debenhams has had a bumpy ride in recent years. Last year, it agreed to close a total of 50 underperforming stores as part of a company voluntary arrangement that will leave it with around 115 stores.

Last week, it announced that 19 of those stores will close in January, resulting in 650 job losses. 

Vansteenkiste said he was "delighted" that Comber was joining the business and said she would play a "key part in delivering the turnaround of the group".

He continued: "Her track record speaks for itself and her experience and understanding of customer engagement and developing digital-service initiatives will be particularly important as we continue to work on transforming Debenhams into a business that can compete effectively in the rapidly changing retail environment."

Comber added: "With 19 million customers in the UK in stores and online, the opportunity to play an important part in developing Debenhams’ customer proposition for the next decade is really exciting.

"I am delighted to be joining Stefaan and the team to help build a successful future for one of the UK’s best-known retail businesses." 

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