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David Riddiford

"A very bruising experience as you can imagine," David Riddiford says of his departure from Arnotts.

The former CEO of Ireland's oldest department store was brought in in 2007 to lead its radical €1bn Northern Quarter plan, but that had to be shelved when property values collapsed.

Write-downs on the project meant Arnotts fell into the hands of its creditors -- Ulster Bank and Anglo (now IBRC) last year.

Riddiford returned to England and was headhunted to work with La Senza, the lingerie chain owned by Lion Capital, advising on strategy.

He has previously headed up Hong Kong department chain Lane Crawford, and was buying and merchandising director of Selfridges. He has also worked for Asprey and Garrard, Harvey Nichols and the Burton Group.

In October he was appointed CEO for jewellery retailer Links of London, which is owned by one Greek plc Folli Follie, a fashion and duty-free retailer and distribution business with a turnover of about €1bn a year.

Riddiford's remit is to assist with the integration of the business and expansion into the Far East, Australia and more of Europe. Links is "very profitable" in its main market of Britain, with jewellery having a very high margin compared to fashion retail, but it faces challenges due to gold and silver prices.

The retail landscape in Britain is "bad and getting worse, with every month that goes by it's getting more difficult. London and the south east are relatively protected but the further you get away from London the more the deterioration is seen."

He holds a great deal of affection for Ireland and regrets the Northern Quarter not just commercially but because Dublin city centre "needs that investment".

"To draw people in, not just for shopping but hotels, restaurants, to reactivate the heart of the city," he says.

Sunday Indo Business