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Pumpkin Patch overhauls board, chair Freeman retires

Pumpkin Patch overhauls board, chair Freeman retires

By Suze Metherell

Sept. 22 (BusinessDesk) - Pumpkin Patch has continued to refresh its board, with chair Jane Freeman the latest to announce her departure, as the childrenswear chain tries to revive falling sales in a changing retail environment.

Peter Schuyt, who has been an independent non-executive director since 2012, will take over from Freeman at the start of next month, while former Warehouse Group executive Luke Bunt will join the Pumpkin Patch board from Oct. 1, the Auckland-based company said in a statement.

Schuyt is also a director at Tatua Co-operative Diary Company, Port Nelson, Foodstuffs North Island and Landcare Research New Zealand, while Bunt was formerly chief financial officer at Warehouse, currently chairs Flooring Xtra Co-operative and also sits on the boards of Comvita, Profile Foods, Smith's City Group and Super Liquor Holdings

The changes are the latest in a series of board and senior executive reshuffles as the company looks to revive its performance with new blood in the boardroom. Founder Sally Synnott retired from the retailer's board in July to be replaced by Griffin's Foods executive Josette Prince.

"Over the past year we've embarked on an important change and review process," Freeman said. "With the initial stage now complete, I feel that I can step aside confidently with the business positioned for the future."

Freeman joined the Pumpkin Patch board in 2004, before taking the chair in 2010. She is currently a director of Foodstuffs North Island, ASB Bank, Kiwi Income Property and winemaker Delegats Group.

In March Pumpkin Patch announced a strategic review including a close look at its IT infrastructure, in a bid to make its distribution and supply chain management more efficient, and the size of its store footprint in a store-by-store review.

In May, the company cut its guidance for after-tax earnings before reorganisation costs to a range of $1 million and $3 million for the year ending July 31, having earlier said earnings would be little changed from last year’s $8.5 million. The company is due to report earnings on Friday.

The children's clothing retailer exited the NZX 50 Index last year and has since been followed by fellow retailers Hallenstein Glasson, the local clothing chain, and Brisbane-based jeweller Michael Hill International this year. Retailers, especially those in the rag trade, are under increased pressure to keep prices cheap as shoppers are lured by bargains from international online retailers.

Shares of Pumpkin Patch last traded at 41 cents, and have declined 54 percent this year.


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