Former HSN exec to lead Rue21

Marianne Wilson
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Bill Brand

Rue21 has named a new chief executive.

The apparel retailer announced the appointment of Bill Brand as CEO.  He will take the reins from  John Fleming, who has served as interim CEO since Feb. 2020, following the departure of Michael Appel. Fleming will return as a board member. 

Most recently, from 2018 to June 2020,  Brand served as senior VP and chief retail officer of Carnival Corp., where he was recruited to lead the creation of a new retail arm for the $18 billion global cruise company.   

Previously, Brand spent 11 years at TV shopping network HSN, including serving as president from 2014 to 2017. With a focus on experiential retail  — enhancing customer connections by delivering value-based and attention-driving content that creates a "halo effect'' around brands — Brand revamped the decades-old TV model into a more modern, digital and mobile experience,  according to Rue21.  He also forged strategic partnerships with Hollywood studios such as Disney and A-list celebrities.

"We chose Bill because of his impressive track record in building high performance teams and his industry-recognized leadership abilities to modernize retail brands," said Fleming. "Under his leadership, we will leverage rue21's recent growth by doubling down on omni-channel enhancements to create more compelling customer experiences."

Rue 21, which operates about 675 stores in 45 states, said its store reopenings after pandemic closures outperformed year-over-year monthly sales. Most recently, its business is up double digits compared to the total apparel market down 12% in September, the company said. It also   recently opened new brick-and-mortar stores. 

"This pandemic proved that our brand promise has significant staying power," said Scott Vogel, rue21's board chairman. "During one of the most tumultuous times in retail history, John [Fleming] brilliantly steered the brand to not only survive when myriad retailers liquidated, but thrive beyond our expectations. Now, Bill's ability to build teams around understanding the customer at every touch point makes his appointment the next natural progression in accelerating rue21's transformation."