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The chief executive of Britain’s biggest specialist electrical goods and mobile phone retailer is quitting days before it updates the City on its Christmas trading performance.

Sky News can reveal that Sebastian James, who has run Dixons Carphone since the company was created in 2014, is to leave to run Boots, the high street chemist.

Mr James’s resignation will rock Dixons Carphone, which is scheduled to publish sales figures for the festive period on Tuesday.

His exit is likely to be particularly poorly received because it will come just a fortnight after Humphrey Singer, his finance director, quit to take the same role at Marks & Spencer.

Their dual departures will pose a major headache for Lord Livingston, Dixons Carphone’s chairman, following a sharp fall in half-year profits announced in December.

Sources said that Mr James’s resignation would be formally notified to the London Stock Exchange on Monday, although a statement is likely to be made sooner following an enquiry from Sky News.

A move to run Boots, part of the New York-listed Walgreens Boots Alliance, would see Mr James entering an unfamiliar part of the retail sector.

The health and beauty chain is the UK’s biggest retailer by number of stores, with about 3,500 outlets across its main brand, Boots Opticians and Boots Hearingcare operations.

It employs about 57,000 people, and ‎has been part of the global drugs wholesaler and retailer since WBA was established by the giant American company’s takeover of Alliance Boots.

Mr James’s prospective job title at WBA was unclear on Friday, ‎although he is expected to take on responsibilities held by Elizabeth Fagan, the company’s senior vice president and managing director of Boots.

Given his seniority, Mr James, who was appointed to run Dixons in 2008, is also likely to be handed a wider remit.

His departure from Dixons Carphone is not entirely unexpected given that he has been with the business for a decade.

The poor performance of Dixons Carphone’s share price – down by nearly half over the last year – has left Mr James and senior colleagues nursing worthless share options which could have been worth millions of pounds.

Last summer, several leading investors in the company said they wanted its board to step up succession planning in the wake of a profit warning which also left them venting anger towards Mr Singer.

When they merged in 2014, Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse were worth a combined £3.8bn.

At the close of trading on Friday, however, the business was worth £2.2bn, with investors anxiously awaiting details of the Christmas trading period.

Dixons Carphone has a 42,000-strong workforce in nine countries, including Greece and Norway.

A close friend of former prime minister David Cameron, Mr James emerged last year as a contender to run commercial broadcaster ITV, but the role eventually went to Carolyn McCall, the then easyJet boss.

December’s fall in profits at Dixons Carphone was attributed to mobile phone operations and changing customer behaviour, with consumers inclined to hold on to their existing handsets for longer, Mr James said.

It currently trades from roughly 1,000 shops but has raised the prospect of a significant shrinking of its estate over time.

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It was unclear ‎on Friday whether Dixons Carphone had already lined up Mr James’s successor.

A WBA spokesman‎ declined to comment on Friday, while Dixons Carphone could not be reached for comment.

Consumers have made it clear that they no longer want to see photoshopped or retouched advertising – and brands are finally listening.

US drug-store giant CVS is the most recent company to announce an end to photoshopped advertisements – and the decision by America’s largest drugstore chain has the potential to influence other companies to do the same.

Announcing the change, CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes said: As a woman, mother and president of a retail business whose customers predominantly are women, I realise we have a responsibility to think about the messages we send to the customers we reach each day.�

Foulkes continued: “The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established. As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.�

In order to accomplish this, the drug-store company has announced a ban on photo manipulation on makeup marketing and promotional displays in-store, websites, social media and any marketing materials.

However, the company is also urging brands sold in their stores to do the same – or face repercussions.

According to the press release: “As part of this initiative, transparency for beauty imagery that has been materially altered will be required by the end of 2020,� meaning the brands can either follow CVS’s lead and discontinue the use of photoshopping and image altering, or CVS will place alert labels on their images.

The decision, which was made “in an effort to lead positive change around transparency in beauty as well as to allow customers to differentiate between authentic and materially altered imagery,� according to the press release, is huge considering the 9,600 CVS stores nationwide.

With brands and beauty suppliers such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, L’Oreal, Maybelline and CoverGirl owner Coty sold in CVS stores, the move calls on these brands to also implement these changes.


CVS urges other brands to follow their lead

And as one of the nation’s largest beauty product sellers, with women making up 80 per cent of the brand’s consumers, CVS’s choice is an important step in creating a transparent future where unrealistic beauty standards are not reinforced.

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