At first meeting Richard Kirk has a five minute credibility gap. His looks and calm demeanour suggest a Harley Street specialist but then once he starts talking about his passion you realize how much he is at home in the rugged world of High Street discount shopping.
He learned his trade in a hard school, first at Woolworths then 18 years at Iceland, the frozen food speciality group where he rose through the ranks to managing director.
Kirk is a man who relishes a challenge and in 1998 he left Iceland for The Peacock Group, the discount clothing group, whose history goes back to 1884. Within 12 months Kirk led the company’s flotation on to the London Stock Exchange and a dramatic transformation in its fortunes.
With 55% of the group’s revenue coming from women’s wear, change was inevitable. Bonmarche stores and The Fragrance Shop chains were acquired and a major stores upgrade was got underway. Today the group has more than 425 stores and a work force of 5,000 people.
“If we hadn’t done something we would have been eaten alive” he was reported as saying at the time.
Then at the end of last year Kirk led an audacious successful move to take Peacocks private in a £404 million deal, back by hedge funds.
With that completed early this month, Kirk is back on the deal-making trail and the talk on the City grapevine is that he is set to inject his own money, leading a consortium of private individuals, to take control of about 180 Kwik Save stores and resurrect this troubled brand.
Kirk will become non-executive chairman of Kwik Save but remain committed to running Peacocks on a day to day basis.
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