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Zara owner elevates insider to CEO for online shopping push

London

ZARA owner Inditex SA promoted Carlos Crespo to chief executive officer, naming an insider to spearhead the fast-fashion giant's push into e-commerce.

Mr Crespo, 48, who is currently chief operating officer of the world's largest apparel retailer, will report to executive chairman Pablo Isla, 55, who is yielding the CEO position.

The new chief will be responsible for technology, procurement and sustainability, the Spanish company said in a statement on Thursday.

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The appointment comes at a time when fashion chains are wrestling with the growth of online shopping, with Amazon.com Inc, Zalando SE and other companies grabbing market share. Inditex, which also owns the Massimo Dutti and Bershka chains, has been a leader in e-commerce among bricks-and-mortar chains but has faced questions about the durability of its growth in recent months.

The company is known for its lightning-quick product turnarounds, bringing new designs from the drawing board to store shelves in just a few weeks. In March, however, the company reported the weakest earnings growth in five years, showing that it is not immune to a retail malaise that has burdened rival Hennes & Mauritz AB.

The Spanish company has placed increasing bets on online sales and aims to expand the capability to all global markets by next year. E-commerce revenue rose 27 per cent to 3.2 billion euros (S$4.9 billion) last year.

Mr Isla took over as chairman in 2011 when founder Amancio Ortega stepped back. The promotion of Mr Crespo marks the first time since then that the company is splitting the positions of chairman and CEO.

Given that Mr Crespo was already COO, the new role is unlikely to result in a change of strategy for the company, Citi analyst Adam Cochrane said in a note.

The appointment is subject to approval by shareholders at the annual general meeting in July. The company said that it will also expand the size of the board to 11 from nine by including Mr Crespo and a new independent director who has yet to be named. BLOOMBERG