Lead­er­ship Changes In the Fash­ion In­dus­try Con­tinue to Mul­ti­ply

Here’s who’s in and out — and why.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY KEL­LIE ELL

The c-suite con­tin­ues to be a re­volv­ing door for fash­ion’s biggest play­ers.

From Jan Singer’s sud­den exit at

Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret last No­vem­ber to Lau­rent Pot­devin’s mys­te­ri­ous res­ig­na­tion at Lu­l­ule­mon Ath­let­ica to the end of John Haugh’s ten­ure at Iconix Brand Group, lead­er­ship changes among fash­ion and re­tail’s biggest names are adding up.

But the trend can be seen across in­dus­tries.

In fact, de­spite the cur­rent econ­omy

— the long­est ex­pan­sion in U.S. his­tory — more chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers re­signed in 2018 than any other time since the fi­nan­cial cri­sis a decade ago: 1,452 to be ex­act. That’s ac­cord­ing to a new sur­vey from Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas, a ca­reer out­place­ment and con­sul­tancy firm.

“Com­pa­nies were de­cid­ing to make big changes at the top,” Andy Chal­lenger, vice pres­i­dent of Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas, said of the re­port that tracked both pub­lic and pri­vate com­pa­nies head­quar­tered in the U.S., not in­clud­ing start-ups. “With the pos­si­bil­ity of a bear mar­ket, of a re­ces­sion, com­pa­nies might just be say­ing we need to get a fresh strat­egy in here in case of a down­turn.”

In­vestors are on edge over the stock mar­ket’s re­cent surge in volatil­ity, but re­tail and fash­ion com­pa­nies have their own set of prob­lems. Like chang­ing con­sumer pref­er­ences and e-com­merce com­pa­nies, such as Ama­zon and Alibaba, that con­tinue to shake things up, all of which af­fects com­pa­nies’ bot­tom lines.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, which tracked com­pa­nies that have been around for at least two years, 35 chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers from re­tail com­pa­nies de­parted in 2018, four from ap­parel com­pa­nies. The rea­sons are as di­verse as the prod­ucts sold.

“It may be that the ceo wasn’t quick enough to adapt to the chang­ing e-com­merce en­vi­ron­ment,” said Chal­lenger, who added that with, “a long-term de­cline of the stock, cer­tainly the blame can be placed on the ceo of a com­pany.”

Like Jan Singer. Last fall, the for­mer ceo of Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret left her post af­ter only about two years on the job. L Brands, par­ent com­pany to Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret, said in a state­ment that Singer vol­un­tar­ily re­signed. But the com­pany has been strug­gling to re­gain mar­ket share for years, even sell­ing off its as­sets in an at­tempt to gather cash. Its stock is down about 43 per­cent in the last year.

Iconix isn’t do­ing much bet­ter. Com­pany shares have fallen more than 90 per­cent year-over-year, which may ex­plain why John Haugh was pushed out. Then there was J. Crew, which forced out Jim Brett as ceo in No­vem­ber af­ter only 15 months on the job. The ap­parel brand has been strug­gling with fash­ion misses and fi­nan­cial woes for the last three years.

Still, other high-pro­file de­par­tures oc­curred amid a swirl of Me Too-re­lated ac­cu­sa­tions.

Lu­l­ule­mon never for­mally com­mented on the rea­sons for Pot­devin’s de­par­ture, only say­ing that the ex­ec­u­tive’s per­for­mance “fell short” of the com­pany’s stan­dard of con­duct.

Gio­vanni Morelli, for­mer creative di­rec­tor of shoe com­pany Stu­art Weitz­man, was let out of his con­tract in May af­ter only one year with the brand. Par­ent com­pany Ta­pes­try, which has Coach and Kate Spade in the port­fo­lio, said in a state­ment at the time that “Ta­pes­try is com­mit­ted to an en­vi­ron­ment where ev­ery in­di­vid­ual feels re­spected and at times [Morelli’s] be­hav­ior fell short of these stan­dards.”

Binny Bansal, co­founder and group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the In­dian e-com­merce com­pany Flip­kart, re­signed in No­vem­ber, af­ter re­ports sur­faced re­gard­ing the ex­ec­u­tive’s “lapses in judge­ment.”

And it’s not just chief ex­ec­u­tives who are leav­ing in record num­bers. The trend in­cludes other mem­bers of the c-suite.

Paul Mar­ciano, co­founder and chief creative of­fi­cer at Guess lost his job last sum­mer af­ter sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions sur­faced.

Nike Brand Pres­i­dent Trevor Ed­wards un­ex­pect­edly “de­cided to re­tire” in March. The com­pany didn’t give specifics, only say­ing it re­ceived a num­ber of com­plaints re­gard­ing Ed­wards’ be­hav­ior.

Clashes in vi­sion caused Raf Si­mons to part ways with Calvin Klein in

De­cem­ber. The for­mer chief creative of­fi­cer’s con­tract wasn’t up un­til the fol­low­ing Au­gust. Re­gard­less, Emanuel Chirico, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of PVH Corp, par­ent com­pany to Calvin Klein, said the same month that the com­pany was “dis­ap­pointed by the lack of re­turn on our in­vest­ments in our Calvin Klein 205W39NYC.” Then Rod Manley left Calvin for Burberry. Manley started as chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer at Burberry on Jan. 7.

Other high-pro­file board­room shuffles in­clude the de­par­ture of Doug Ew­ert of Tai­lored Brands, Da­vide Grasso at Con­verse and Shan­non Greene from

Tandy Leather Fac­tory. Mean­while, Heidi O’Neill, pres­i­dent of Nike Di­rect, took on an ex­panded role in De­cem­ber, over­see­ing all of Nike’s dig­i­tal prod­ucts and ser­vices. On Thurs­day, Des­ti­na­tion Ma­ter­nity named two new ex­ec­u­tive ti­tles, in­clud­ing a new chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Dave Helkey. The ap­parel com­pany also named Doug Goeke in the newly cre­ated po­si­tion of chief trans­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer.

“Ap­parel is get­ting hit in the same way that re­tail is, where a lot of the traf­fic is mov­ing on­line, malls are clos­ing, more and more com­pa­nies are hav­ing to adapt to sell­ing their prod­ucts vir­tu­ally,” Chal­lenger said. “Some­times that does mean you need a new, tech-fo­cused ceo in place that’s go­ing to be able to help lead the com­pany through a re­ally ma­jor tran­si­tion.”

Lau­rent Pot­devin, for­merly of Lu­l­ule­mon Ath­let­ica, is just one of the many ex­ec­u­tives to leave their post in 2018.

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