Chico's FAS, which runs retailers Chico's, White House Black Market and Soma, announced on Friday that Diane Ellis has been appointed president of its Chico's brand, effective Nov. 1. Ellis will replace Cinny Murray, who stepped down in August.
Ellis will oversee all business activities for Chico's and report to Chico’s FAS President/CEO Shelley Broader. Ellis has been the CEO of The Limited for the past three years, where she is credited with driving their transformation. She was previously the COO of Brooks Brothers and a founding partner of Lighthouse Retail Group.
In the last fiscal year, Chico's FAS revenue fell to $2.64 billion and same-store sales fell 1.5%, while profits fell to $1.9 million, in part due to its shuttering of its Boston Proper brand.
Ellis will have her work cut out for her in crafting a turnaround plan for Chico’s, a mall-based apparel chain that also runs lingerie retailer Soma Intimates and White House Black Market. The retailer has been distracted not just by tepid sales but also by a failed takeover attempt by private equity firm Sycamore Partners Management last year. Sycamore couldn’t line up the needed financing to buy the women’s apparel chain and dropped its buyout plans in February 2015.
Since then, there have been layoffs and continued troubles for the brand struggling to gain traction among its core customer base of older women, which analysts say is an underserved market. The apparel retail market in general has also seen tepid sales as customer spending habits shift online and mall traffic declines.
In a statement, Ellis promised to bring innovation in her new role, though it was her 35 years of experience that was emphasized by Broader. "Diane is a seasoned leader who has proven time and again that she is one of the most strategic business and brand builders in retail,” Broader said. “She brings merchandising, marketing and operational expertise as well as a strong passion for our customers."