Consumer

Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.

(Updated )

Burberry Group Plc needs to get back into fashion on two fronts.

Although the British luxury company reported better-than-expected first quarter sales on the back of a rebound in China, with retail revenue up 3 percent to 478 million pounds ($613 million), new Chief Executive Marco Gobbetti still has the task of reigniting interest in the tired brand.

Signs of Luxe Life
Burberry has reported its best same-store sales growth in two years
Source: Company filings, Bloomberg Intelligence

And there's another area where Burberry needs to be more on trend: executive pay.

The company may face a backlash from shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday over awards to chief creative director and former CEO Christopher Bailey, and new finance director Julie Brown.

The expected clash will be in contrast to much of the British shareholder meeting season.

This year has seen some U.K. companies show more restraint when it comes to pay. The abstemious stance demonstrates that boards are listening to investors' reservations over remuneration.

Burberry has made some progress.

Brown handed back up to 2.4 million pounds worth of share awards that were in part to compensate her for the loss of the equivalent at her former employer, Smith & Nephew Plc. The move came after it emerged that her award on joining Burberry was worth more than she could have received at Smith & Nephew.

Bailey, meanwhile, waived his bonus for the last two years. He also deferred some of the 1 million shares he was awarded in 2013, prior to his appointment as chief executive. However, he's still eligible to receive stock worth about 11 million pounds at the current share price from that award, and another share grant in 2014. The 2013 tranche had no performance criteria attached.

Bailey's awards have already proved controversial, with Burberry suffering an investor revolt over pay in 2014.

Not a Good Look
Burberry underperformed the FTSE 100 Index for some of Christopher Bailey's time as chief executive

Long-serving Chairman John Peace is preparing to stand down and a successor is expected to be appointed by the end of next year.

Whoever fills his shoes should follow some of Burberry's peers and listen at an earlier stage to shareholder concerns over remuneration in order to avoid more bruising battles in future.

The incoming chairman must strike a delicate balance. The design heads of many luxury groups aren't on the company's board, and so their pay isn't public. Retaining the right creative talent, and keeping shareholders happy will be key.

It would be a shame if executive pay tensions were to overshadow Gobbetti's considerable task of making Burberry's fashions fresh again. Still, a hair shirt on remuneration may help produce a more stylish one on the catwalk.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(Updates with revenue figure in second paragraph. An earlier version of this column was corrected to more accurately reflect Brown's compensation.)

To contact the author of this story:
Andrea Felsted in London at afelsted@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katrina Nicholas at knicholas2@bloomberg.net