Australian surf brand Billabong on Thursday announced the appointment of Jim Howell as chief financial officer, effective June 12. He will succeed Peter Myers, who has served in the role since January 2013, according to a company press release. Howell will be based in California.
Howell had been at Nordstrom for 10 years, most recently as executive vice president of finance and treasurer, according to his LinkedIn page. At the upscale department store retailer he oversaw cost management improvements, as well as capital management and growth initiatives. He also played a key role in the implementation of Nordstrom’s highly successful omnichannel retailing strategy, which Billabong in a press release noted has demonstrated “consistent best-in-class financial performance.”
Myers and Billabong CEO Neil Fiske have been planning Myers’ departure for some time. Myers will continue at the company to aid the transition, Billabong said.
Billabong was founded in 1973 and expanded rapidly in the '90s, but it may have overextended itself. The surf retailer bought up rival companies only to sell them later at a loss when the economy tanked.
By expanding that way and orienting itself so much to the non-surfing consumer, Billabong, like rival surf brand Quicksilver, lost some of its credibility with top athletes. Plus Billabong, like so many others, has also been thrown by the growth of inexpensive, on-trend fast-fashion retail, which has troubled many storied retail institutions.
“Peter has played a pivotal role in steering Billabong through a complex and challenging period, including a significant streamlining of our portfolio of businesses and our operating structures,” Fiske said in a statement Thursday. “Following this period of restructuring, the focus is now even more concentrated on improving the operational performance of the business.”
Howell’s experience aligns particularly well with Billabong’s strategy, which now is “to deliver long-term sustainable growth in a highly competitive retail environment,” Fiske also said. “Jim will both work alongside me on this while also providing me with an increased opportunity to connect with our global customers and stakeholders.”
Howell's move to Billabong comes amid a personnel shakeup as Nordstrom works to get a grip on its e-commerce strategy in a tough environment for department stores. His departure may mean a realignment of teams as newly appointed Anne Bramman takes over from longtime CFO Mike Koppel, an 18-year Nordstrom veteran who had been in the role since 2001.
Nordstrom does remain a comparatively robust department store, posting respectable sales numbers and maintaining a reputation for appealing merchandise and superb customer service, especially at its Nordstrom Rack off-price unit. First quarter sales rose 2.7% to $3.3 billion, from $3.2 billion in the year-ago period, while net sales at Nordstrom Rack, including Rack stores as well as the Nordstrom Rack and HauteLook websites, rose 8.7% and same-store sales rose 2.3% percent.