Debenhams appoints Abigail Comber as CMO

Department store chain Debenhams has announced that former British Airways (BA) senior marketeer, Abigail Comber, will be joining the business at chief marketing officer (CMO).

Comber is set to arrive on Tuesday 7 January, taking over the marketing function currently managed on an interim basis by Erin Brookes.

Stefaan Vansteenkiste, who was appointed Debenhams CEO in August 2019 after spending four months in the role of chief restructuring officer, talked up the new arrival’s understanding of customer engagement and developing digital service initiatives.

He said these skills – and Comber’s extensive experience – will be particularly important as the senior team “continue to work on transforming Debenhams into a business that can compete effectively in the rapidly-changing retail environment”.

Comber has spent the majority of her career at BA, most recently as head of customer experience and global head of brands & marketing. In 24 years spent at BA, her portfolio included work on brand strategy, marketing, customer experience design, partnerships, sponsorship, and community relations.

Comber also led BA’s critically-acclaimed sponsorship of the UK teams at the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics.

Since leaving the airline in May 2018, Abigail has been helping several businesses with their turnaround plans. 

“With 19 million customers in the UK in stores and online, the opportunity to play an important part in developing Debenhams’ customer proposition for the next decade is really exciting,” Comber commented.

“I am delighted to be joining Stefaan and the team to help build a successful future for one of the UK’s best-known retail businesses.”

Debenhams also announced over the weekend that it will be closing 19 stores between 11-19 January, as part of the company voluntary arrangement it secured last year, a form of insolvency it is using to cut unprofitable stores.

Among the stores closing this month are Altrincham, Wolverhampton, and Canterbury, with 660 jobs set to go as a result.