Corporate leadership changes don't just mean new names—they also mean new policies. Executive shakeups often come with public reasons, as well as stories behind the scenes. Retail is no exception.
Publicly, prominent departing executives this year cited a "personal decision" and "the right time to do it" after years of solid performance. Whether the real reason is bad results, age or freeing up a place for another perspective leader, every story provides a lesson.
Here are five such executive changes that will continue to echo on into 2014:
1. Ron Johnson's vision failure at JCPenney
Johnson, a former Apple retail chief and JCP's outgoing CEO, planned to change the big apparel and home furnishing company into a modern organization attractive to youth. Unfortunately, thanks to canceling high-low pricing, coupons and sale events, JCP alienated existing customers. And most importantly, store sales fell by almost 30% during the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the same quarter the year before.
“Mr. Johnson tried to change too much, too quickly and, in the process, alienated the retailer’s traditional customers,” wrote Chantal Tode, Editor of Mobile Commerce Daily.
Mike Ullman, who previously served as JCP's CEO, has now become Johnson's successor. Apparently, the 111-year-old retailer needs to bet on traditional methods.
2. Leslie A. Dach leaves Wal-Mart after seven perfect years
At first glance, 58-year-old Dach's decision seems to be logical. “When things are going really well, that’s the right time to do it,” commented Mr. Dach about his departure, according The New York Times. Undoubtedly, he left a significant footprint on Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Healthier food-making and help for female factory workers in Asia and Central America might be the best examples of his impact. However, there are also negative memories associated with his leadership. Labor groups complaints of a workers treatment, international bribery investigations and falling stock prices also appear on Dach's resume.
During the transition, Mr. Dach will continue consulting for the company.
3. Lululemon's CEO suddenly resigns
Christine Day spent more than five years leading Lululemon Athletica, producing yoga-inspired apparel. Day’s record doesn’t look bad, and Lululemon's reputation as one of the most successful retailers is definitely due to her effort. However, the company faced a see-through pants scandal recently, and its stock price took a hit. Then, it took another punch when Day announced her exit plan.
A “personal decision” was the official reason for Day's stepping down, according to USA Today. The departing chief explained that Lululemon has set a new plan and vision, and a new CEO will be tasked with its fulfillment. The question remains: What kind of change is coming to Lululemon? Day will stay in her position until the successor is named.
4. Gary Philbin progresses at Dollar Tree
This 56-year-old man's promotion is without a doubt the result of his contribution to the company’s growth. From the chief operating officer, he's gone on to become Dollar Tree's president. Bob Sasser, a former president and CEO appreciated Philbin’s “leadership and superb business judgment.” In practice, the new president has improved customer policy and also helped with expansion into Canadian market.
Only the future will tell if his 30 years of experience in the retail grocery industry are enough to manage more than 4,700 stores in North America.
5. Changes at Coach include new CEO, Victors Luis
Coach's story this year is that of Lew Frankfort, a 66-year-old man who spent more than 33 years at the handbags giant. "Lew has grown Coach from a small leather goods business into one of the world’s foremost luxury accessories brands," noted Irene R. Miller, lead independent director on Coach’s Board of Directors.
As of January 2014, Frankfort's place belongs to Victor Luis, who has done a respectable job as president of International Group, seeing success in Asian markets. Luis was already named chief commercial officer. His upcoming role as CEO and experience in international markets, suggests more worldwide ambitions for Coach on the horizon.
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