Yesterday, I was on my annual shopping spree in the beloved London post-Christmas sales, where even the loveliest brands slash 50-75% of their prices. London’s got to be the best place in the world for shopping in the sales season! One of my favourite stores that I use for elegant work wear is Pringle on Sloane Street, and I got curious about who owns and runs the business these days. While reading up on Pringle’s history, I came across Kim Winser, who ran Pringle as a chief executive from 2000 – 2006 and is credited with its turnaround from a loss-making Scottish knitwear company to a global fashion brand. I wanted to find out more about her.
Kim Winser started her career as a management trainee with Marks & Spencer straight from school in in 1977, where she became one of the youngest ever divisional directors aged 33, running the womenswear division. At one breakfast board meeting, Sir Richard Greenbury, CEO of M&S at the time, who sat right next to her said: “I’ve got to tell you this joke, especially as there are no women in the room.” When she pointed out she was sitting right next to him, he replied ‘Oh, you’re one of the boys,’ and told the joke! Having been one of only two divisional directors at 33, she is adamant being a woman cannot have been a disadvantage, however.
At 38, Kim Winser had her only son, and splitting from the father (another M&S director), has brought him up as a single mom with one live-in nanny. Live-in nannies seem to be a theme with very successful working mothers, as we can see in the extreme with hedge fund manager Karen Finerman, but I have also observed with all the working mums in my company.
In 2000, Kim missed out on being appointed to M&S’s board and was headhunted to lead the turnaround of Pringle, where she had a new line designed within the first three months, closed small old retail outlets and instead focused on flashy flagship stores in Bond Street and Sloane Street and cooperations with luxury department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
In 2006, she was appointed president and CEO of another loss-making British luxury brand, Aquascutum. She resigned from the job in 2009 after an unsuccessful management buyout of the company, upon which she became chairman of luxury lingerie brand Agent Provocateur, a position from which she resigned again in early 2011. She now acts as an adviser to French Sole, where she has been tasked with tripling their turnover over the next five years.
For those of you interested in a fashion or retail career, what a fantastic role model she is! I wish there were more videos or speeches of her online but the only decent thing I have found is a short interview on BBC which you can find here:
If you want to read more about her, two management magazines have excellent in-depth profiles of her career: