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Chico’s names CEO, and organizational consolidation

BY Marianne Wilson

Chico’s FAS has ended its search for a chief executive with an internal appointee.

Bonnie Brooks has been named CEO and president of Chico’s FAS and will remain a member of the Chico’s board. Brooks, former vice chair, president and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, has served as interim CEO at Chico’s since the departure of Shelley Broader in April.

“Since being appointed interim CEO, Bonnie has moved quickly to sharpen the company’s focus on core priorities that have stabilized the business and positioned Chico’s FAS to deliver improved top- and bottom-line results,” said David Walker, chair of the board.

Walker said that the board received interest from a number of qualified external CEO candidates with deep merchant experience.

“The board determined, however, that the best way to build on the progress underway at this time is to appoint Bonnie as CEO,” he said. “In addition to providing continuity, Bonnie’s leadership enables us to continue leveraging both her experience driving numerous successful turnarounds at other apparel retailers as well as the knowledge she already has of Chico’s FAS.”

In other appointments, responsibility for Chico’s apparel brands — Chico’s and White House Black Market — has been consolidated under Molly Langenstein, appointed president, apparel group, effective August 1, 2019. Langenstein joins after nearly three decades with Macy’s, where she most recently served as general business manager, ready-to-wear. (The company noted that Karen McKibbin, president of Chico’s brand, has resigned to pursue other opportunities.)

Chico’s intimate brands, Soma and TellTale, will continue to be led by Mary van Praag, president, intimates group.

New CEO Brooks has been a member of the Chico’s board since 2016. She joined Hudson’s Bay in 2008 as CEO and president. From 2012 to 2014, Brooks served as President of Hudson’s Bay Company, responsible for both Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor.

From 1997 to 2008, Brooks was based in Hong Kong serving as an executive officer, including as president, of the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, a women’s fashion retailer with over 500 stores in Asia, and as global merchandise manager for Dickson Concepts (International) Limited, a luxury retail group and owner of Harvey Nichols, U.K. Prior to that, Brooks spent over a decade at Holt Renfrew & Company.

“The leadership structure announced today will strengthen the organization, create clear lines of responsibility and accelerate our sales driving priorities,” Brooks said. “I am confident we are focused on the right areas and moving in the right direction with stronger performance expected in the second half of the year.”

Chico’s has been challenged with sliding sales. The company’s total same-store sales fell 4.9% last year while net sales fell to $2.1 billion from $2.3 billion. The retailer is also reducing its store portfolio, having announced with plans to close at least 250 U.S. locations over the next three years in what it called a “strategic decision to rebalance the mix between its physical store presence with its digital network.”

The retailer said that under Brooks’ leadership it has reset priorities for growth to focus on three distinct areas. These include driving stronger sales through improved product and marketing; optimizing the customer journey by simplifying, digitizing and extending the company’s unique and personalized service; and transforming sourcing and supply chain operations to increase product speed to market and improve quality.

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