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J.C. Penney names new CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

The search is over — J.C. Penny has named Jill Soltau, a 30-year retail veteran, as chief executive officer. She is the first woman to lead the 116-year-old department store retailer.

Soltau, whose appointment is effective Oct. 15, most recently served as president and CEO of Joann Stores, the nation’s largest fabric and crafts retailer. Prior to Joann, she spent eight years at Shopko Stores, most recently as president after serving as executive VP and chief merchandising officer.

Before Shopko, Soltau held several senior level positions in merchandising, planning and private brand management at Sears and Kohl’s. She started her career with Carson Pirie Scott, which was later acquired by Saks Inc.

Soltau has her work cut out for her at Penney. The chain is struggling with slumping sales and a stock price that has been at historic lows. She succeeds Marvin Ellison, who left the chain in May to take the top spot at Lowe’s. Since then, several other executives have also left Penney, including, most recently, its CFO.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said that putting an experienced female executive in the top role at Penney was a sensible move.

“One of JCP’s central problems has been its inability to connect with women shoppers, especially in terms of fashion,” he said. “We believe Ms. Soltau will have a far more intuitive understanding of the changes that need to be made than many of those who held the role before her. This, along with her deep experience of retail – especially in terms of merchandising – will prove invaluable in turning the retailer around.”

The news of Soltau’s appointment sent Penney shares up more than 10% after hours on Tuesday, when the company made the announcement. She will also become a member of the retailer’s board of directors.

“Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” said Paul J. Brown, J.C. Penney board director and chairman of the search committee. “As we looked for the right person to lead this iconic company, we wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit. Not only is she an established CEO and former chief merchant, her depth of experience in product development, marketing, e-commerce and store operations have been an important basis for the turnaround work she spearheaded at prior companies.”

In a statement, Soltau called Penney “a quintessential American brand” and said she “couldn’t be prouder to lead such an iconic retailer.”

“I am highly passionate about the customer and I spent my entire career focused on the needs of a value-based consumer by researching, understanding and meeting her expectations for style, quality and inspiration,” she said. “Every position I’ve held has prepared me for this role, and I couldn’t be more excited to meet the talented and hard-working J.C. Penney teams and get to work.”

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New law in California requires companies to put women on their boards

BY Marianne Wilson

California has become the first state in the nation to require publicly traded companies to have at least one woman on their corporate boards.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a law that requires public companies whose “principal” executive offices are located in California to have at least one woman on their board of directors. Companies must comply by the end of 2019.

By the end of July 2021, a minimum of two women must sit on boards with five members, and there must be at least three women on boards with six or more members. Companies that fail to comply face fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation.

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Brown wrote in a signing message.

The California Chamber of Commerce was among the groups that opposed the bill. It said it agreed with the bill’s intent, but not how it proposes to implement its goal.

“It also likely violates the United States Constitution, California Constitution and California’s Civil Rights Act, which places California companies in a legal predicament,” the group said in a letter. It also noted that current law says companies are governed by their state of incorporation, not where their offices are located (the two can be different).

Some experts believe the bill faces serious legal challenges.

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Levi Straus exec to head up Men’s Wearhouse

BY Marianne Wilson

Tailored Brands has appointed a new leader for its Men’s Wearhouse and Moores banners.

The retailer named Carrie Ask as brand president, Men’s Wearhouse and Moores. She will report directly to Tailored Brands’ executive chairman and will oversee the combined $2 billion business that includes nearly 900 stores across the U.S. and Canada and sees roughly 40 million annual e-commerce visits. Ask succeeds Scott Norris, who has been in the role since 2014. He will assume the position of chief merchandising officer for Men’s Warehouse and Moores.

Ask joins Tailored Brands from Levi Strauss & Company, where she was executive VP and president, global retail, and oversaw more than 2,900 retail stores in 30 countries and partnered with the global e-commerce team. Previously, she was with Nike, serving as VP and general manager for Nike stores North America. Also at Nike, Ask held the position of VP and general manager for global retail at Converse.

Ask also served in executive leadership roles at Petco, Target and BC Natural Foods. She is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and began her career by serving as an officer in the United States Navy.

“Carrie has a strong track record of delivering consistent sales growth across multiple retail categories and channels,” said executive chairman Dinesh Lathi. “Behind Carrie’s success is her passion for the customer and her ability to develop innovative solutions to adapt to today’s rapidly evolving retail landscape.”

Tailored Brands operates over 1,400 stores in the U.S. and Canada as well as our branded e-commerce websites. Its brands include Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Joseph Abboud, Moores Clothing for Men and K&G. It also operates an international corporate apparel and workwear group consisting of Dimensions, Alexandra and Yaffy in the United Kingdom and Twin Hill in the United States.

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