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Former Glassons boss Di Humphries seen as strong contender for top Pumpkin Patch job

Friday 2nd August 2013

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Di Humphries, the former boss of Hallenstein Glasson's women's wear chain, is seen as a strong contender for the top job at children's clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch after chief executive Neil Cowie resigned this week to lead Mitre 10 (New Zealand).

Pumpkin Patch poached Humphries, a retailing industry veteran, from Hallenstein last year to be its merchandise and brand manager, meaning she is playing a key role as the executive team rolls out a revamped range, having taken impairment charges last year to overhaul the business.

Chairwoman Jane Freeman said Humphries was among strong internal candidates though the current workload of the company is one of the reasons the succession process will take some months. Humphries didn't immediately return calls.

"There's a lot to do at the moment," Freeman told BusinessDesk. "While the timing is unfortunate for Neil to be leaving we have a lot of talent around the executive team and the board table. We can't afford to take our eye off the ball."

Shares of Pumpkin Patch fell 2.3 percent to 85 cents yesterday, and touched an 18-month low 75 cents at the start of the month. The stock has shed 35 percent this year.

Humphries' background includes experience as a buyer for Ezibuy and for Pumpkin Patch before she was hired by Hallenstein, where she ran its Australian operations before becoming the group's chief buyer and ending up in charge of the Glassons chain. A NZ Herald article in 2004 described her as a former Canterbury women's rugby rep, high school maths and physics whiz and part-time model.

Rickey Ward, equities manager at Tyndall Investment Management, said Humphries had a strong reputation though she wasn't well known to investors in her current role.

Cowie told Pumpkin patch shareholders at their annual meeting last November that Humphries "brings a huge amount of experience around product innovation, develop and sourcing." He said she would "add significant leadership capability to our senior management team," when she was appointed last August.

Last month Pumpkin Patch said full-year profit may drop as much as 35 percent in the face of intense competition in Australia, following a similar warning from Hallenstein.

Profit after tax, excluding reorganisation costs, is expected to be $7.5 million to $9 million in the 12 month as ending July 31, down from $10.1 million a year earlier, as rivals embarked on earlier end-of-season sales .Changes to wholesalers' delivery schedules would also hurt trading activity, it said.

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