FINANCE

Specialty retailer to explore alternatives

BY Marianne Wilson

An Indianapolis-based appliance and electronics chain is bringing in outside help as it struggles with sinking sales.

Hhgregg announced that it has engaged subsidiaries of Stifel Financial Corp. for advice on potential strategic and financial transactions as the retailer works to improve liquidity and return to profitability.

“We are committed to improving our results through our business strategy, including investments made to shift our focus to appliances and furniture, and additional expected cost reductions,” said Robert J. Riesbeck, Hhgregg’s president and CEO. “We believe it is an appropriate time to explore potential strategic transactions.

Founded in 1955, Hhgregg operates 220 stores in 19 states. It has struggled amid increased competition not only from online players but also such traditional chains as J.C. Penney, which has added expanded appliance departments to many of its stores.

The retailer reported disappointing results for its most recent quarter, which ended Dec. 31, with sales falling 24% to about $453 million. The chain posted a loss of $58.3 million in the quarter, more than double its $26.9 million loss in the year-ago period.

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C-SUITE

Ralph Lauren adds new exec positions

BY Marianne Wilson

Ralph Lauren Corporation has created two executive positions as the company continues its turnaround efforts and to search for a new chief executive.

Ralph Lauren tapped Jonathan Bottomley to the newly created position of chief marketing officer, effective April 3. He will be responsible for evolving Ralph Lauren’s brand voice, leading the global marketing team and building cut-through marketing strategies across the company’s brands.

Most recently, Bottomley served as chief strategy officer of Virtue, a Vice Media Company. Prior to that, he was chief strategy officer and managing partner in the London headquarters of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, where he led strategic brand-building efforts for clients across the luxury and consumer lifestyle sectors.

In addition, Tom Mendenhall has been named brand president, Men’s Polo, Purple Label and Double RL. In this newly created role, all men’s brand functions will report into him, including design and merchandising, and he will be charged with maximizing brand strength to improve sales growth.

Mendenhall joins Ralph Lauren from Tom Ford International, where he served as COO for more than a decade, working alongside Tom Ford to build the brand from its inception. Prior to that, he was a senior VP at Abercrombie & Fitch.

“As we write our next chapter, we continue to add exceptionally strong leaders with the passion, energy, and talent to lead our company into the future,” stated Ralph Lauren. “Both Jonathan and Tom bring a fresh perspective and incredible depth of brand experience to Ralph Lauren. They each have impressive track records and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our leadership as our evolution continues.”

In February, the company announced that its CEO and president, Stefan Larsson, would step down on May 1, in what it described as a mutual agreement to part ways.

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TECHNOLOGY

Tech giant creates global IoT headquarters

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

IBM is taking the next step in its IoT journey.

The technology provider has opened the doors of its new $200 million global headquarters for its Watson Internet of Things (IoT) business in Munich, Germany. The space will also serve as an innovation space for the European IoT standards organization, EEBus.

"We have reached a tipping point with IoT innovation,” said Harriet Green, general manager, IBM Watson IoT, cognitive engagement and education.

“We now have over 6,000 clients and partners around the world many of who are now wanting to join us in our new global Watson IoT center to co-innovate," she said. “Together we are building a new global IoT innovation ecosystem that will explore how cognitive and IoT technologies will transform industries and our daily lives.”

Going forward, clients and partners will use the innovation space to collaborate with IBM's 1,000 Munich-based IoT experts to tap into the latest design thinking, and push the boundaries of what is possible with IoT, the company said.

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