Eddie Bauer on Thursday said that Damien Huang has been promoted to president, overseeing the design, merchandising, marketing, retail, e-commerce, licensing, international and wholesale functions of the business. He will report to Mike Egeck, CEO of PSEB, the new operating company formed by private equity owner Golden Gate Capital to group Eddie Bauer and surf apparel retailer PacSun under a single operating company.
Huang, who joined the banner in 2010 and has held multiple senior product positions there, was most recently its senior vice president of merchandising and design, leading the strategy in design, merchandising, product line management and product development, according to a company press release. Before that he led merchandising and design efforts at outdoor apparel stalwarts Patagonia and The North Face.
The outdoor sports apparel retailer also said that Mike Africa has been named Eddie Bauer's vice president of commerce, with responsibility for the retail and e-commerce businesses, and that Mike Schulam is now vice president of merchandising. Both will report to Huang.
Along with his merchandising and design chops, Huang personally has a passion for outdoor activities, which has informed his development of performance gear at Eddie Bauer — a category that has seen sales grow "at a double digit rate over the last five years under his leadership," PSEB CEO Mike Egeck said in a statement last week.
Recently, same-store sales last year rose 6.5% at Eddie Bauer and so far this year they're up 6%, the company said. But the brand needs more than leadership to reverse its fortunes. A turnaround is proving difficult for Eddie Bauer because it’s spent the better part of the 21st Century burdened by debt — surviving two trips to bankruptcy court, one in 2003 and again in 2009. Then-parent Spiegel Inc. sought Chapter 11 protection in 2003, after eroding sales and credit card defaults led to debts of $1.7 billion.
Last year, Eddie Bauer was reportedly exploring strategic alternatives, including looking for a buyer as it sought relief from a $225 million term loan due in 2020 and $200 million revolving credit line that comes due in 2019, but there were no takers.
Many retailers have turned to private equity for support during a difficult retail environment, but their turnaround needs have not always aligned with private equity priorities. Last week, in announcing its move to merge the two retailers, Golden Gate said it will invest additional equity in PSEB to support its growth.
In any case, resorting to fresh ownership schemes in tough times isn't new for the brand. Founder Eddie Bauer, who launched it as a single hunting and fishing gear store in Seattle in 1920, himself over the years turned to a variety of owners to help keep his business afloat. Eddie Bauer products carry a lifetime guarantee and are available online and at more than 400 stores in the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan and other international markets.