Five Below seeks president following COO departure

Specialty retailer Five Below is searching for a seasoned retail executive to fill the role of president to execute an aggressive growth strategy following the departure of chief operating officer David Johnston.

Johnston was with the company, which operates 258 stores focused on teens and pre-teens, for roughly a year, joining the retailer last June just as Five Below was about to go public. An initial public offering of 11 million shares priced at $17 was well received and on several occasions this year has broke through $40. Johnson joined Five Below from convenience store operator Wawa, Inc., where he had served as CFO since 2005.

Five Below co-founder and CEO Thomas Vellios said the company appreciated Johnston’s contributions and wish him well in future endeavors, but noted it was time for the company to create a dedicated president role.

“As we execute our store growth plans and expand our presence in new and existing markets, we will continue to invest in talent across our organization by filling new roles and expanding the scope of certain roles,” Vellios said. “With where we are in our growth trajectory, we believe creating a dedicated president position, reporting to me, is the right step for the organization. We are pleased to announce that we have initiated a search for a seasoned retail executive to fill this important role."

The change comes as the Philadelphia-based company is in the midst of a nationwide expansion involving 60 new stores in 2013. Five Below entered Michigan with six stores in April, opened in second distribution center and added four store in Austin, Texas last month. The first stores in Dallas are planned for next month and eventually Texas could support as many as 100 stores.

Johnston’s separation from Five Below becomes effective August 31 at which time he will be entitled to half of his annual salary of $400,000 and 43,250 stock options will vest and become exercisable. In exchange, Johnston will be precluded for a period of one year from working for another retailer with a fixed price point strategy or party goods emphasis with Dollar Tree and Party City cited as specific examples in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At the end of the second quarter on May 4, Five Below operated 258 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, West Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Georgia.

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