CEO Churn: Three on the Hot Seat
As the new year settles in, so do new leaders at many of the nation’s leading chains. In a disrupted retail environment, they all have their work cut out for them — but some more than others.
Here are three who face an uphill climb in the months ahead:
• James Marcum, David’s Bridal: Retail veteran Marcum took on a lot of baggage when he said “I do” to the nation’s largest bridal specialty chain in June, starting with a 69-year-old company that has become increasingly less relevant in its space.
David’s Bridal filed for Chapter 11 in November 2018 and emerged soon after in a debt-for-equity swap that handed ownership to existing creditors. David’s kept true to its promise that the filing would not disrupt stores or customer orders, but the bankruptcy still had a negative impact and sales suffered. In November, the retailer reached a deal that significantly reduced its debt, helping it avoid a likely second trip to bankruptcy court.
But David’s still faces big hurdles in a category that has been disrupted by online players and changing bridal fashions and traditions. Marcum, most recently a senior operating partner at Apollo Management and with a resume that includes stints at Circuit City, Hollywood Entertainment, Stage Stores and Marshalls, is bullish about David’s prospects. He understands that the company needs to move quickly to align itself with today’s consumers and retail trends. Whether he has the time and resources to move the dial for David’s is another story.
• Robert Riesbeck, Pier 1 Imports: After joining the beleaguered home décor retailer as CFO in July 2019, Riesbeck was promoted to the top spot in November. He brought with him more than 25 years of leadership experience in retail and consumer goods — all of which he will need in trying to right a company that has been on a downward trajectory and a bankruptcy watch for some time. Pier 1 has been racking up losses amid increased competition from online and the likes of Target and Walmart. A turnaround plan that seems focused mainly on cost reductions has yet to bear much fruit.
Notably, Riesbeck is a bankruptcy veteran. He served CFO of plus-size apparel retailer FullBeauty until its bankruptcy filing in February. And he was CEO of consumer electronics and home appliance chain Hhgregg when it filed for Chapter 11 in March 2017.
• Mark J. Tritton, Bed Bath & Beyond: Tritton took a big leap — and took on a big challenge — in November when he left his post as chief merchandising officer of Target Corp., where he built one of the nation’s most successful private-label portfolios, to join the struggling home goods retailer.
Tritton, who previously served in executive roles at Nordstrom, Nike and Timberland, is charged with turning around a company whose same-store sales have declined for three years as competitors — old and new — steal market share. He wasted no time in cleaning house. In mid-December, Bed Bath & Beyond announced the departure of six senior members of its leadership team, including the chief marketing officer, chief merchandising officer and chief digital officer. The company called the move a “bold pivot” that reflected the priorities of Tritton, who will unveil his vision for the chain early this year.
Beyond its ailing namesake division, Bed Bath & Beyond is saddled with an array of other banners, including Cost Plus World Market, Buybuy Baby, Christmas Tree Shop and One Kings Lane. Activist investors want the company to shed its non-core assets and devote its energy to fixing and turning around the main ship.
It’s still too early in the game to assess whether Tritton is, as one industry analyst put it, “just what the company needs.” But the general consensus is that Bed, Bath & Beyond has a better chance of righting itself with him at the helm.
Still Looking: As of mid-December, a number of retailers still had the “Help Wanted” sign posted for their corner office. Among the companies still on the hunt: Gap Inc., J. Jill, eBay, Bluemercury and Francesca’s Holdings.