Cowie lured from Pumpkin Patch

21:10, Jul 30 2013

Pumpkin Patch says it's "business as usual" after announcing the resignation of chief executive Neil Cowie, who will join another New Zealand retailer.

Shares in the children's clothing store chain reversed their early gains to close down 2.2 per cent this evening, at 91c.

Chief financial officer Matthew Washington said Cowie was moving to a "fantastic role" with a private company in the retail industry.

"I can't say much more than that - it's up to them to announce."

Washington said it was disappointing to be losing Cowie.

"However, the opportunity he's been offered is a phenomenal one for him, so you can't blame him for that," he said.

"As an organisation, it's business as usual. We've got some very clear views on what we're trying to achieve, and we're just going to carry on doing that."

Washington said Cowie would stay on for a few months to smooth the transition period while the company found a replacement.

"That process started today, so it's a bit early for me to comment on how long that process is going to continue, but it will be over the next few months at least, I would think," he said.

In a statement to the NZX, Pumpkin Patch chairwoman Jane Freeman praised the significant contribution Cowie had made in his six years with the company.

He joined as chief operating officer in 2008 and spent the last two years in the chief executive role.

Freeman said the executive team and board would lead the business until the chief executive appointment was confirmed.

Cowie has previously held roles with Woolworths in Australia and as general manager of retail at The Warehouse in New Zealand.

He has helmed the company through tough times in the fiercely competitive children's fashion industry.

In March, Pumpkin Patch reported a a $4.7 million first-half net profit, a dramatic reversal of the $30m loss in the same period last year.

However, that was largely due to the closure of stores and reorganisation costs.

Pumpkin Patch took big losses during previous attempts to expand in Britain and the United States, where it now has a more successful online presence.

The company's share price is flat compared to a year ago, and remains a long way from its heyday of more than $4 in 2006 and 2007.