20 December 1961 |
|Alma mater||The University of Wales, Aberystwyth|
|Years active||1985 – present|
|Employer||Marks and Spencer|
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She was born in the city of Plymouth, Devon, England and attended St Dunstan's Abbey School for Girls. She started working as a Saturday shop assistant in the menswear department of her local Debenhams at the age of 16, and managed a gift shop following successful sixth form studies, after which she was admitted to her degree course in economics and business at The University of Wales, Aberystwyth. After graduating in 1983 she turned down an offer to train with a firm of accountants to pursue her love of retail and fashion by working as a graduate trainee in the womenswear department of Harrods.
In 1985 she left Harrods to become a menswear merchandiser at Debenhams. She took on a number of incrementally senior positions within Debenhams before being appointed a company director in 1991. She was appointed trading director and joined the board in 1997. She held responsibilities including Womenswear, accessories, lingerie, and designers. After Terry Green resigned in 2000, she was appointed by shareholders Chief Executive of Debenhams. During her administration the company did well despite an unfavourable economic climate. She became the first chief executive of a London Stock Exchange-listed company to take maternity leave with the birth of her second son in 2001. Her planned six weeks' absence made headlines of some national newspapers as a relatively long time for a chief executive to take off work. She was successfully re-elected at annual general meetings up to and including 2003.
She left Debenhams in 2003. Her failure that October to secure a buyout of Debenhams by Permira prompted her departure (Debenhams was eventually bought for £1.7 billion by a rival private consortium).
Harold Tillman, a retail entrepreneur, had bought Jaeger in 2002 and had inherited a brand in decline. Earl was initially approached in 2004 and was eventually persuaded to become Chief Executive. Jaeger became a profitable business, growing sales both in retail and online, developed the lines of Jaeger London, Boutique by Jaeger and Jaeger Black as well as expanding internationally during her tenure. She left the business in 2011.
Marks and Spencer
Belinda joined M&S as Style Director in September 2012.
Earl lives in Surrey with her husband David, a lawyer, and two sons.
- Martinson, Jane (14 December 2006). "Queen of Retail makes dull brand shine". The Guardian.
- "Debenhams boss steps down". BBC News. 13 September 2000.
- Murray-West, Rosie (17 January 2001). "Debenhams bucks trend with improved results". Telegraph UK.
- Mesure, Susie (24 October 2003). "Earl's Debenhams days numbered as Permira pulls out". The Independent.