August 20, 2013 4:00 pm

Coast lures Bostock back to high street

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Kate Bostock©Bloomberg

Kate Bostock, the former head of non-food at Marks and Spencer, is to return to the high street as chief executive of Coast, the privately owned occasion wear retailer.

The appointment, which will be announced on Wednesday, comes just weeks after Ms Bostock quit Asos, the fast growing online fashion retailer, after only seven months.

Earlier this year Aurora Fashions, the company that owned the Coast, Oasis and Warehouse chains, announced a radical plan to break itself up and Coast is now operating as a standalone company.

Ms Bostock said: “I am really thrilled to be joining the business. It is a great fit for my skills and expertise. I am really excited about taking the brand forward.”

The appointment is likely to raise speculation that Coast is being prepared for a sale or float. However, people familiar with the situation said there were no current plans.

Ms Bostock’s first chief executive role will see her take the helm of a chain with 370 stores and franchises, and which operates in 26 countries.

Aurora was also at the forefront of online retail, investing in software that allows items that have sold out on its website to be delivered directly from stores. It was also one of the first retailers to integrate digital technology into its shops.

As an independent company, Coast, which opened its biggest ever store last year, has been concentrating on occasionwear, with more flagship stores, online developments and international expansion planned.

Ms Bostock, who takes up the role on September 16, brings a knowledge of developing clothing products and senior management experience, honed at M&S, and, before that, at Next and Asda’s George business.

Coast is chaired by Derek Lovelock, who has known Ms Bostock for many years, and often acted as a mentor during her career, although this is the first time the two have worked together.

While Coast, which has a customer base with a broad age range, concentrates on outfits for special occasions, such as weddings and proms, Ms Bostock believes there is potential to broaden the product range to clothes that cater for a wider spectrum of occasions and lifestyles. She is also keen to develop the international and online opportunities.

Fran Minogue, managing partner of executive search firm Clarity, said of Ms Bostock’s new role: “This is a perfect move for Kate. Coast is a very strong product led business that she can get her arms around, with the support of a very experienced chairman, and away from the glare of the publicly listed environment.”

One of the most powerful women in British fashion, Ms Bostock spent eight years at M&S, and was head of all its non-food departments. She announced she was leaving in July 2012 and joined Asos in January. However, last month she resigned from the online retailer, saying that while it was a “formidable business”, it “wasn’t the right place for me”.

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