Malissa Akay, chief merchandising officer at Express, has left the company.
The disclosure came through a Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filing on Friday. According to the filing, Akay’s departure from the retailer is part of the company’s previously announced expense reduction initiative and it was effective immediately.
In accordance with a previously executed severance agreement, the company said Akay will receive her base salary for 18 months, along with any short-term incentive amounts due for the fiscal year 2023 based on the actual achievement of performance objectives. The severance agreement also includes yearlong non-compete and non-solicitation covenants.
If involuntarily terminated without cause, Akay could receive a severance payout of about $3.3 million, another regulatory document indicates. In an email to Retail Dive, a spokesperson with Express said Michael Rengel, who has been with the company since December 2019 as a lead in the merchandising team, will assume Akay's design responsibilities.
Akay joined Express in September 2019. As executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, she oversaw men’s and women’s design and merchandising and was responsible for product and merchandising strategy across Express and Express Factory Outlet stores and on express.com. She came from from Lane Bryant where she had been executive vice president and general merchandise manager since 2016. Before that, she held global merchandising roles with Ralph Lauren and also worked for DFS Group, which is majority held by LVMH.
Akay’s most recent base salary was $750,000, according to an April proxy statement filed with the SEC. She received a market-based $25,000 raise in May 2022 “following a strong performance in 2021 and no previous increases to base salary since she was hired in 2019,” according to the filing.
Express reported in May reported a first-quarter net loss of $73.4 million, an operating loss of $70.1 million and negative EBITDA. Comp sales for the quarter also fell 14%. In its first-quarter earnings announcement, Express said it’s “taking aggressive action to reduce expenses and improve the operating efficiency of its business. In January, the company disclosed $40 million in annualized expense reductions versus 2022 prior to the impact of inflation and since that time, it has already identified and implemented an additional $25 million to be realized in 2023.”
Going forward, “the company is committed to finding significant additional expense savings which are expected to benefit the back half of 2023 and full year 2024, and has engaged external advisors to assist in analyzing and identifying both potential margin expansion and further expense reduction opportunities.”
Express and WHP Global, a retail investment and brand management company, have an intellectual property joint venture, of which WHP owns 60% and Express owns 40%. In addition to Express, other brands in the company’s portfolio include Bonobos, which the company recently acquired, and Toys R Us. Express has about 530 Express retail and Express Factory Outlet stores in the U.S.; over 60 Bonobos Guideshop locations; and 13 UpWest retail stores. All of the brands also have e-commerce platforms.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the nature of the business relationship between Express and WHP Global, and with information on who will handle some of the chief merchandising officer responsibilities following Akay's exit from the company.