Burberry's chief operations officer, John Smith, is stepping down, depriving joint-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer, Christopher Bailey of a key lieutenant at a time when he’s already filling two of the company’s most important positions. Smith is leaving to pursue new interests and will exit the board by summer next year, Burberry said in a statement Friday. He had been chief operating officer since March 2013, having previously served as a non-executive director. Smith said he’s exploring several leadership positions in fast-growing international businesses.
The leadership vacuum is the latest setback for Bailey, who’s grappling with subdued luxury demand and falling profits as he tries to cut costs and lift sales. A 35 percent slump in the share price in the past year has led analysts including Paul Thomas at Retail Remedy to call for the appointment of an experienced executive to work alongside Bailey, who also serves as the brand’s chief creative officer.