Harding+ CEO Prescott to stand down; Chris Matthews named as replacement

By Luke Barras-hill |

James Prescott (left) and Chris Matthews.

Global cruise retailer Harding+ has announced that its Chief Executive Officer James Prescott has decided to stand down from his role.

The experienced travel retail executive has been part of the company’s leadership team for the past last decade, the last three of which as CEO.

His departure follows the successful navigation of Harding+ through Covid and a period of untold hardship, towards new ownership under global investment management firm Davidson Kempner.

The cruise company that serves a fleet of more than 90 ships and boasts contracts with the likes of P&O Cruises, restyled from ‘Harding’ to ‘Harding+’ last year.

In a statement, Prescott expressed his sincere thanks to all those involved in an enjoyable and memorable decade of service, praising the great achievements and bright future.

‘Right time’ to hand over reins

It’s been an absolute privilege, and an honour to have led the business and worked with  inspiring teams, partners and colleagues, particularly in the post Covid recovery ‘unknown’,” he said.

“2023 has been a year of big change for me personally and, combined with the 10-year landmark anniversary at Harding+, it felt the right time to hand over the reins. This is a big change for the business, and for me, but  it is time for someone with fresh energy to take the business to even greater heights.”

Harding+ Non-Executive Chairman Mike Coupe commented: “All those who work or who have worked with James know his deep knowledge and passion for cruise retail, and we thank him for all that he has brought to the business and our teams.”

In a dual announcement, Harding+ has named retail and private equity expert Chris Matthews as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Carnival Mardi Gras

In his new role, Matthews will lead the executive, leadership, operational landside and shipboard teams as the business continues to collaborate with its partners, such as Carnival (pictured is Mardi Gras) on working smarter and more creatively, focusing on simplification, automation and a commitment to sustainability.

Set to join Harding+ on 16 October, Matthews brings a wealth of UK and international retail expertise to the role.

Most recently he was CEO of the UK’s largest omni-channel bingo operator Buzz Bingo, while he has also held the same position at outdoor specialist Go Outdoors.

His resume also includes senior roles at Currys PLC, leading businesses across Greece and the Nordics, and at Marks and Spencer.

Mathews commented: “I am delighted to be joining Harding+ at such a pivotal time when the cruise industry has an incredibly positive future ahead.  I am looking froward to building on the heritage and leadership positions that have been created and spending time with colleagues throughout the business in the coming weeks as we plan for a successful 2024 and beyond.

“The Harding+ ambitions remain bold, and ‘making every cruise better’ as the brand purpose remains at the heart of the business, as we push forward with the + agenda very much at the core  of all we do.”

Coupe added: “We are delighted that Chris as his successor will be able to build upon the strong foundations created by James, and the tireless commitment that he has given to our business for over a decade.

“Chris shares the same values as us, and has developed strong partnership driven relationships that ensure the focus is on the highest quality offering for customers. And he understands the retail dynamic and commercial drivers at the heart of that as an experienced business leader.”

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