English clothing designer and retailer, founder of the clothing chain Next and pioneer of supermarket fashion (with the George at Asda label), who came out of retirement in 2001 to design a new women's fashion collection for Marks & Spencer through his new Per Una business. The success of the Per Una label led Marks & Spencer to buy the brand from Davies in a £125 million deal in 2004, but he has retained substantial control over the business despite a fractious relationship with the chain store's management.
Having joined Hepworth in 1981, Davies went on to launch a new chain of high street fashion outlets with English designer Terence Conran. The chain was renamed Next in 1986. Davies became joint group managing director and later chief executive. Under his tenure, the stores expanded to include womenswear, home furnishings, fashion accessories, mail order, and the diversified retailer, Combined English Stores in 1987. However, by 1988 the company, which had expanded beyond its limits, issued a profit warning and Davies was ousted in a boardroom coup.
In 1990 he was approached by Asda (which was later bought by US discounter Wal-Mart) to develop a separate clothing line within their supermarkets. There Davies created the ‘affordably chic’ George brand, building it up to a £600 million-a-year business and launching high-profile marketing campaigns. Davies left Asda in November 1999, reportedly saying that large organizations ‘couldn't cope’ with him, only to accept a commission from Marks & Spencer in 2001.
Davies was born in Liverpool, England, and educated at Bootle Grammar School. After dropping out of a dentistry course at Birmingham University, he worked as a clerk and later as a buyer at Littlewoods in the late 1960s. From 1972 he had his own business, School Care, before joining Pippa Dee, a party plan/lingerie subsidiary of Rosgill Holdings, in 1975.
Davies was the Guardian Young Businessman of the Year in 1985, the Wood Mackenzie Retailer of the Year in 1987, and the Marketing Personality of the Year in 1988. In 1989 he published his autobiography, What Next?.
Davies, George William