Aurora Fashions, the company behind fashion brands including Karen Millen, Coast, Warehouse and Oasis, today (2 October) named Mike Shearwood as its new chief executive and revealed it has performed strongly over the last six months.

Shearwood, who was previously the firm's former deputy chief executive officer and is the former managing director of Inditex in the UK, replaces Derek Lovelock who becomes executive chairman.

Mike will take over the day to day running of the group whilst Derek will focus on strategy, exploring development opportunities and supporting the brands on product, sourcing and supply chain.

Aurora, which operates internationally from 1,427 stores in 45 countries including the UK, was created six months ago from a management buyout of the major brands owned by Mosaic Fashions.

The company, which has annual global retail sales of around GBP720m (US$1.14bn) said its performance at the end of the first half was "significantly ahead of the bank plan."

It added that margins suffered initially in the first half due to the weakness of sterling, but group stock levels have remained clean throughout the period and it has negotiated a new hedging facility with Barclays which gives it substantial forward cover.

In the last six months Aurora has rationalised its infrastructure, consolidated its distribution operations from three sites into one, migrated all of its four brands to a single IT platform and completed a comprehensive cost reduction programme.

In the first half the group opened 137 new outlets, 110 of these in international markets. It also added a further 21 UK concessions in its major department store partners that include John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams.

A further 18 UK concessions and 8 standalone stores are due to open in the next six months, which will bring the number of UK outlets to 863.

It said online sales have seen "significant growth", rising by more than 20% on last year.

Lovelock said: "The business is in great shape, morale in the teams is high and we have an excellent supply base and strong relationships with our retail and business partners.

"We know the brands have great potential and we have plans to develop them further, something that I am personally going to concentrate on in my new role."