OPERATIONS

Ross Stores names chief merchandising officer Barbara Rentler as new CEO

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Dublin, Calif. — Ross Stores has named chief merchandising officer and president Barbara Rentler as its next CEO, making her the 25th female chief executive to currently serve at a Fortune 500 company. She will also join the company’s board, along with COO and president Michael O’Sullivan.

Rentler will succeed Michael Balmuth, who announced nearly two years ago his intent to step down as CEO and become executive chairman, effective June 1, 2004. Ross Stores said Balmuth will continue to play an integral role on the senior management team.

Rentler has served as president and chief merchandising officer of Ross’ Ross Dress for Less division since 2009. From 2006 to 2009, she was executive VP, merchandising, with responsibility for all Ross apparel and apparel-related products. She served at Ross’ dd’s Discounts as executive VP and chief merchandising officer from 2005 to 2006. Prior to that, she held various executive and merchandising positions at the company, which she joined in 1986.

“We are delighted to announce the team which will lead Ross Stores into the future, as we seek to build on our strong record of growth,” Balmuth said. “Barbara is a gifted merchant and demonstrated leader who has been part of our company’s growth for 28 years. She has played an important role in developing an exceptional team of off-price merchants whose abilities to procure great bargains have been a key driver of our success. Her strong merchandising expertise and management skills give me great confidence that she will be an excellent CEO.”

Balmuth will remain a key member of Ross’ executive team with Jim Fassio, president and chief development officer, and Doug Baker, president and chief merchandising officer, dd’s Discounts, continuing to report directly to him.

Other promotions effective June 1 include: Lisa Panattoni to president merchandising; and Bernard Brautigan to group executive VP merchandising.

Ross Stores operates Ross Dress for Less, with 1,172 stores in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. It also has 137 dd’s Discounts in 10 states.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Survey: Two-thirds of consumers to buy gift cards in spring, summer

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — More than two-thirds of U.S. shoppers will buy gift cards during the spring and summer seasons, according to a just-released survey by the Retail Gift Card Association.

Buying occasions include Mother’s Day, graduation and weddings. Key findings of the RGCA spring and summer gift card study, which polled more than 1,100 American shoppers, include:

• A full 100% of survey respondents have used a retail gift card in the last year, 77% have given one in the last year, and more than two thirds plan to give one in the next three months.

• More than two thirds of consumers would buy a gift card for their mothers on Mother’s Day. 21% will choose gift cards to a restaurant, while 19% will give cards for either spa and leisure or department stores.

• Gift cards are a very popular gift for graduates, with the overwhelming number of shoppers selecting cards from online marketplaces (45%). Fuel cards are also popular for this younger demographic (21%) as are cards for department stores (13%).

• 79% of shoppers would give a retail gift card as a wedding gift. Department store gift cards are the top choice (26%) followed closely by online marketplaces (20%). Home improvement gift cards will also be popular this year (13%).

• The most popular gift card for Father’s Day will be those from home improvement stores, with 23% of shoppers selecting this option. Restaurants (19%) and online marketplaces (10%) will also be chosen this year.

• An overwhelming 85% of shoppers would select a gift card for a teacher present. This year, the most popular types are restaurant (29%), and online marketplaces (25%).

• $25 is the most popular denomination of gift card to be given over the next three months, with 44% of consumers indicating this is the average amount they will load on each card. 24% will give $50 denominations and 6% will give $100.

"Our survey showed that gift cards remain popular choices for two key reasons: gift givers can be assured recipients will be able to purchase what they want, and the cards are convenient for recipients since they can be spent in-store, online or on their mobile phones," said Mary Donovan, executive director of the RGCA.

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OPERATIONS

Canadian fashion retailer Jacob to close all 92 stores

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Montreal — After a failed attempt to restructure under bankruptcy protection, Canadian fashion retailer Boutique Jacob said it will liquidate its inventory and close all 92 stores.

The Montreal-based chain, which operates the Jacob, Jacob Outlet and Jacob Liquidation banners, exited bankruptcy protection in 2011 and has been unable to return to profitability. According to a Reuters report, the company said it was hurt by a challenging economy as well as competition from international brands that have debuted in Canada in recent years.

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