FINANCE

Report: Ackman backing down in latest Penney drama

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management plans to abandon his push for a quick replacement to J. C. Penney CEO Mike Ullman, according to the New York Post. The report says that it now appears that Penney will proceed with a more deliberately paced search for a replacement for Myron Ullman, who assumed the role of interim CEO in April in the wake of Ron Johnson’s firing.

Ackman, Penney’s largest shareholder, has been engaging in a war of words with Ullman and the company’s other board members. He publicly criticized the board, seeking the ouster not only of Ullman but also of Penney chairman Thomas Engibous.

"I have lost confidence in our chairman’s ability to oversee this board," Ackman said in an open three-page letter he sent to the board on Friday. "Penney is at a very critical stage in its history and its very existence is at risk. In recent weeks, our board has ceased to function effectively."

On Friday afternoon, hedge fund Perry Capital, which owns 7.3% of Penney, expressed support for Ackman’s strategy and urged the company to immediately seek to replace Ullman with veteran retailer Allen Questrom and Engibous with Ken Hicks.

Penney responded, and called Ackman’s statements "misleading, inaccurate and counterproductive."

"The board … is following proper governance procedures, and members of the board have been fully informed and are making decisions as a group. This includes the CEO search process, which is being conducted at an appropriate pace," said Engibous, in a statement.

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FINANCE

Study predicts decline in back-to-school shopping

BY Marianne Wilson

Denver — Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said they won’t be shopping for any back-to-school products at all, up from 27.7% last year, according to research published by The Integer Group. The results were in the latest issue of “The Checkout, an ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by Integer and M/A/R/C Research.

With fewer people shopping, certain channels will see a drop in traffic. Integer predicts that mass, clothing, and drug will take the largest hit, losing 2.3%, 3.2%, and 5.5% of shoppers this year compared to last.

"The shoppers who are heading out this year plan to visit fewer channels, meaning retailers will have a harder time maintaining the same level of foot traffic as last year. Retailers will have to strive harder to get shoppers through the door by investing more in order to entice people with promotions, deals, proper communication, and incentives outside of the store," said Craig Elston, senior VP, insight & strategy at The Integer Group.

The study also shows that:

  • Only 38% of people said they would shop a month or more before school starts, compared to 45% last year.
  • Sixty-two percent said they would wait until at least two to three weeks before school starts to begin back-to-school shopping, despite planning many weeks in advance.
  • Shoppers have heightened their perceptions of private label products. This year, 38% of back-to-school shoppers are buying more private label products compared to 31% last year.
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OPERATIONS

Brooks Brothers names new CMO, COO and CIO

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Brooks Brothers has named Vivien Kronengold as the company’s executive VP and chief marketing officer, a newly created position. The company also appointed Mauro Calderan as COO. Calderon previously served as senior VP, distribution and logistics.

The appointments come less than a week after Brooks Brothers president and COO Diane Ellis was named CEO at the Limited.

Kronengold was most recently chief marketing officer at C Wonder. Prior to that she held senior marketing positions at Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren.

In other appointments, Sahal Laher recently joined Brooks Brothers as the company’s CIO. Laher previously held the same position at Stride Rite Corporation.

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