OPERATIONS

Men’s Wearhouse COO to replace founder as CEO

BY CSA STAFF

Houston — Men’s Wearhouse said its president and COO, Douglas Ewert, will replace company founder George Zimmer as CEO in mid-2011.

Zimmer, 62, who founded Men’s Wearhouse in 1973, will remain executive chairman of the board. The company said he would help Ewert with "strategic direction" for Men’s Wearhouse and keep a hand in marketing decisions.

Said Zimmer, “For the past 37 years, I have emphasized that continuity and culture are a vital part of our ability to serve customers. This orderly approach is designed to enhance both continuity and culture.”

Ewert has been president and COO of Men’s Wearhouse since 2008.

The COO position will not be filled after Ewert’s promotion.

The succession plan for Men’s Wearhouse comes after recent efforts to diversify its business.

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Nielsen to retire from Jewel-Osco

BY CSA STAFF

ITASCA, Ill. — Jewel-Osco, a Supervalu-owned company, announced that Keith Nielsen, Jewel-Osco president, has informed the company of his retirement effective at the end of the fiscal year (Feb. 28).

Nielsen’s successor will be Brian Huff, SVP specialty retail for Supervalu. Huff will transition into the position beginning Feb. 7. All operations and business strategies will continue as normal.

Huff joined Supervalu in 2003 as VP merchandising at Cub Foods. In 2005, he was named president of Cub Foods, leading the division to its highest ever sales and market share. Since 2009, he has served as SVP specialty retail for Supervalu.

Prior to joining Supervalu, Huff served as VP merchandising at Walmart. Having spent his entire career in retail grocery, Huff has also held positions at Price Chopper, Bruno’s and Metro Food Markets.

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Disturbing data points cause for holiday sales concern

BY CSA STAFF

Interesting data points emerged this week that offer potential insight into Walmart’s holiday sales, as Kantar Retail and comScore released reports showing that when compared with the prior year Walmart was less of a destination for gifts and its Web traffic had declined.

According to Kantar’s monthly ShopperScape data for December, significantly fewer shoppers reported shopping at Walmart for gifts in 2010 vs. 2009. Walmart remained the top destination this past December with 56% of holiday shoppers going to its stores, but that was a 2.4% decline from the prior year when the figure was 59%. Walmart had a lot of company as most other retailers experienced a decline in their shopper base. Retailers such as Target, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Toys“R”Us and Kmart held relatively steady.

“This signal that despite the generally positive trends related to spending intention and retail sales growth, shoppers are still being deliberate about store choice and reining in the number of stores in their store sets,” according to Kantar.

Meanwhile, in the online world, which is where comScore offers is measurement service, December traffic was down at Walmart.com and numerous other retailers. Walmart.com is the second most heavily trafficked site behind Amazon.com, but in December, the number of unique visitors dropped 5% to 51.4 million, according to comScore. Target’s traffic declined 11% to 37.3 million, Best Buy dropped 1% to 29.3 million and Sears fell 21% to 18.4 million.

In case you are wondering how the decline in online traffic jives with earlier reports from comScore that online sales hit a record level this past holiday season — the firm said November and December sales increased 12% to $32.6 billion — it has everything to do with conversion rates. There may have been fewer people going to some of the larger retailers’ sites, but they apparently knew what they wanted and retailers were more effective at closing the sale.

In Walmart’s case, 46% of those who shopped its site during the holidays made a purchase compared to 34% the prior year, according to Kantar’s ShopperScape data, which includes a sample size of 2,124 people who made an online purchase. Higher conversion rates likely offset the traffic decline, but comScore doesn’t offer individual retailers’ sales and Walmart doesn’t publicly disclose. Virtually every top retailer tracked by Kantar experienced an improved conversion rate during the holidays.

Topping the conversation rate list and the unique visitor ranking was Amazon.com. It’s conversion rate was 80% compared to 72% the prior year and its shopper base grew to 40% from 38%, according to Kantar’s ShopperScape data. Amazon’s unique visitors increased 6% to 91.1 million, according to comScore. Those positive metrics translated to record sales and profits as Amazon on Thursday said fourth-quarter sales increased 36% to nearly $13 billion and profits increased 8% to $416 million.

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