Jeff Kantor, Macy's chief merchandising officer, is set to retire April 16 after 36 years at the department store retailer and its predecessor companies, a company spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
Kantor was named CMO in September last year, with oversight of merchandising, private brands and planning. Before that, he served as chief stores and human resources officer, according to the company's website. He began his career in 1981 as an assistant buyer at the Boston-based Filene's/Kaufmann's division of May Company, and worked his way up in various positions at various divisions of the May Department Stores Company, which was acquired by Macy's in 2005.
The department store is now searching for his successor, the spokesperson said.
Even after a massive downsizing, with some 100 stores shuttered, Macy's has a sprawling empire, making the job of merchandising chief there an especially challenging one.
Under CEO Jeff Gennette, who was CMO before Kantor, ideal assortments weren't really achieved, according to Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business.
Cohen noted that the CMO should be responsible for making "the enterprise's assortments stand for something meaningful, and differentiated," he told Retail Dive in an email. "I don't think the former Merchandising Chief, now CEO, Jeff Gennette delivered on this and his replacement, Jeff Kantor seems equally ineffective."
With off-price retailers drawing away customers with their treasure hunts and discounts, top labels departing to protect their brand equity and e-commerce upending how people shop, department stores in general, and Macy's in particular, have been under pressure. The iconic retailer has boosted merchandising with its own attempt at off-price, Backstage, in many stores and through efforts like its recent acquisition of retail curation concept Story and tie-up with (and investment in) experiential concept b8ta. But those are unproven and limited, Cohen said.
"They are 'fiddling' with presentation in their stores and claim to be embarking on changes in their top 50 stores. OK, but what about the other 700?" he said. "Frankly, I think Macy's is nowhere with regard to adopting a compelling transformative merchandising, marketing, positioning and operational strategy."
Kantor's departure could be a reflection of Gennette's effort to install his own team. Among other changes, longtime Chief Financial Officer Karen Hoguet announced her retirement in April, Story founder and CEO Rachel Shechtman joined as the retailer's new "brand experience officer," and former eBay executive Hal Lawton was tapped as president last September amid downsizing of the company's merchandising team.