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J.C. Penney still on hunt for CFO; names Walmart vet as temporary replacement

BY Marianne Wilson

J.C. Penney Company has named its second interim chief financial officer in a month.

The retailer announced that Michael Fung is temporarily joining the company as interim chief financial officer, effective Oct. 30. He succeeds Jerry Murray, who will resume his responsibilities as senior VP of finance. Murray took on the job on an interim basis at the beginning of October following the resignation of former CFO Jeffrey Davis. (Davis was subsequently named CFO of Qurate Retail, whose brands include QVC and HSN.)

Fung, who has over 40 years of broad finance experience, has stepped into this role before. He recently served as interim CFO for Neiman Marcus Group and 99 Cents Only Stores following his retirement from Walmart Stores.

“We welcome Michael’s CFO experience and guidance as we continue our search for a permanent chief financial officer,” said Jill Soltau, who took the reins as CEO of Penney on October 15. “As I continue to assess the opportunities surrounding the company’s business, his appointment helps JCPenney benefit from the expertise of a seasoned retail CFO who has supported other retailers during a pivotal time in their evolution and helped deliver meaningful progress.”

Fung served for more than a decade in senior financial roles at Walmart Stores, including most recently as senior VP and CFO of Walmart Stores U.S. from 2006 to 2012. Prior to Walmart, he served in the top finance positions at several large corporations.

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Barnes & Noble reveals details on why it fired CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

Barnes & Noble has taken the gloves off on its battle with former chief executive Demos Parneros.

In July, the nation’s largest bookstore chain fired Parneros for “ violations of the company’s policies,” and said he would not receive any severance pay. The retailer offered no other details except to note that the termination was not related to the company’s financial reporting, policies or practices or any potential fraud.

In August, Parneros fired back with a lawsuit seeking $4 million of severance plus other damages in which he accused Barnes & Noble founder and chairman Leonard Riggio for engineering his “firing without cause” and for “falsely and irrevocably’ damaging his reputation.

The newest chapter to the saga is a countersuit filed by Barnes & Noble in which it detailed the reasons it terminated Parneros, including reports of sexual harassment and an allegation that he sabotaged an acquisition of the company. The retailer said a female employee reported two incidents in which Parneros allegedly subjected her to unwanted touching or comments of a sexual nature.

In other details, Barnes & Noble said Parneros derailed an acquisition of the company that was entering its final stages by portraying it as having “no realistic prospects for success” and as being an “ulgy mess.”

In a statement reported by the New York Post, Parneros rejected Barnes & Noble’s claims, and said he never bullied anyone. He called the sexual harassment claim “completely false,” and said he was “fully supportive of the sales process from the start.”

In Ocober, Barnes & Noble disclosed that it has entered into a formal process to evaluate strategic alternatives. Barnes & Noble said the decision follows expressions of interest from multiple parties to acquire the company — including one from Riggio.

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G.Perry says:
Nov-05-2018 09:58 am

Nice! Ms. Soltau most recently served as CEO of JOANN Stores, a specialty retailer that offers fabrics and crafting supplies in over 850 stores in 49 states. I beleive, highly accomplished retail merchant and former general merchandise manager, she was brought to JOANN Stores to reinvigorate the brand and bolster its market position through a consumer-centric approach that offers compelling assortments, helpful advice and memorable experiences to be digitally shared with others. Waiting for changes. Grant Perry

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Big disconnect between senior execs and consumers on this issue

BY Marianne Wilson

When it comes to pricing, senior-level retail executives are not exactly in tune with consumers.

Nearly 40% of consumers ranked pricing as one of the most important factors in purchase decisions, compared to only 20% of retail executives in a new survey by global technology company First Insight. Both groups, however, named quality as the most important factor (about 50% on both sides) in the purchase decision.

Also, only 20% of senior retail executives felt that consumers believed prices were increasing online, compared to more than half (51% ) of consumers who reported feeling they were. The same percentage (20%) of senior retail executives also felt consumers believed that prices were increasing in-store, compared to 60% of consumers.

“While everyone agrees that quality of products is the most important factor in purchase decisions right now, these data show consumers are more concerned with pricing than many senior decision makers in the retail industry suspect,” said Greg Petro, CEO and founder of First Insight. “The impact of this disconnect will only continue to grow as prices rise due to tariffs. Retailer and brand decision makers need to understand consumers’ perceptions to ensure they are able to continually attract today’s consumers with the right price-value equation.”

The survey also suggested that while the majority of retail executives felt mobile was the technology having the greatest impact on their business (80%), almost no executive acknowledged the impact of smart speakers. Meanwhile, the number of consumers who said they own smart speakers was up 75% to 42% of respondents when compared to a similar survey last December. The majority of consumers who own smart speakers are using them to research prices (59%), a significant increase from last year (49%).

Other survey findings include:

Consumers still shopping more in-store: Seventy percent of senior retail executives believe consumers make more purchases in-store than online. In reality, consumers surveyed make about 60% of purchases in-store, versus 40% online.

Senior retail executives are underestimating importance of in-store discounts and better pricing to consumers: Although 36% of consumers ranked price promotions, coupon availability or better pricing as one of the top three factors making them want to shop in physical stores versus buying products online, the survey found that only 12% of retail executives ranked these factors as important to consumers.

Both consumers and senior retail executives agreed that being able to see, touch and feel the product ranked the most important (36% by consumers, and 44% by executives). Being able to take a product home immediately was named as a top-three factor by 41% by consumers, and by 59% of executives.

Consumers are shopping on mobile devices less often than executives think, but consumers are increasing shopping on mobile devices overall: Seventy-eight percent of senior executives believe that consumers are shopping on mobile devices occasionally to very frequently (six or more times a month), but only 47% of consumers reported shopping that often. But the number of consumers who are making one or more purchases online per month via mobile is increasing.

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