Leadership Changes In the Fashion Industry Continue to Multiply
Here’s who’s in and out — and why.
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.