Preston & Partners Recruits Operating Chief for Kirkland’s

February 1, 2017 – Executive search firm Preston & Partners has placed Mike Cairnes as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Kirkland’s, Inc. Managing partner Elaine Erickson led the assignment.

Mr. Cairnes brings 25 years of experience in home décor retailing and manufacturing to Kirkland’s and will focus on improving execution and consistency across the organization. In his role as COO, he will be responsible for day-to-day operations, overseeing marketing and e-commerce, merchandising, planning & allocation, store and supply chain operations.

Most recently, Mr. Cairnes was with Michael’s Stores, where he served concurrently as president of its Aaron’s Brothers retail business, since 2015, and president of its Artistree framing business, since 2007.

How the Job Was Won

“Kirkland’s was looking for a senior leader from a company that was omni-channel- and had great sourcing abilities,” said Ms. Erickson. “Leadership was paramount on this search. The COO at Kirkland’s oversees merchandising, the stores, supply chain, marketing, e-commerce, merchandise planning and allocation, real estate and visual presentation.”

The chosen leader’s credentials checked off all of the boxes on the COO job profile, said Ms. Erickson. “In addition, he experienced and successfully transformed those divisions within Michaels. I also had outstanding references on him from senior management at Michaels.” What won Mr. Cairnes the job was a 34-page outline he put together on how he was going to help Kirkland’s differentiate themselves and progress.

“We’re delighted to have Mike join the Kirkland’s team,” said Mike Madden, president and chief executive officer. “He has an accomplished track record of operational excellence, driving meaningful financial improvement and managing change across a wide range of retail and manufacturing businesses. Mike’s a great cultural fit and will play a key role in helping us shape our vision and drive our strategic priorities.”


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Preston & Partners just placed Sarah Hussey at Kirkland’s as vice president of planning and allocation. Prior to joining Kirkland’s she worked in similar roles at Sports Authority, since 2000, and held merchandising roles at both Macy’s and Hess’s Department Stores.

“These additions are an important step in our ongoing efforts to better position Kirkland’s to achieve our long term growth objectives,” said Mr. Madden. “While the industry faces challenges, we believe we have a differentiated concept with a unique opportunity to grow sales and profit as we improve our operational execution, expand our branding efforts and omni-channel experience, and focus on new ways to better serve our customers.”

Kirkland’s was founded in 1966 and is a specialty retailer of home décor in the U.S. Although originally focused in the Southeast, the company has grown beyond that region and currently operates 404 stores in 36 states.

Preston & Partners is a multi-industry, cross functional search firm with offices in New York City and Charlotte, NC. Elaine Erickson, the managing partner who led this search, has strong relationships with retailers and manufacturers ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. She has placed candidates in VP-level through C-level positions and completed senior level engagements with Bob’s Discount Furniture, Burlington Stores, Cracker Barrel and Dollar General. She served as president of retail focused search firm Kenzer Corporation for 31 years prior to joining Preston & Partners in 2008.

“We are very pleased that our retail practice within the firm continues to grow under the leadership of Elaine,” said Gary Preston, senior managing partner. “She delivers to her clients with intention and purpose and is an inspiration to search professionals across our practice.”

Retail Sector Seeks Innovative Leaders

According to recruiters specializing in finding retail sector leadership, retailers face major shifts in the workplace that require transformational leaders who are innovative leaders with a world view.

So what areas within the industry are most active? “The searches that I am conducting are centered on process improvement and differentiation of the brand,” said Ms. Erickson. “I have had many searches in marketing, branding, IT, merchandise planning & allocation, localization and supply chain. All of those categories speak to: ‘How are we going to do it better, get superior information, improve inventories, and source more efficiently.’ Of course, omni-channel is also critical in retailing and many of my searches are addressing that.”

Within the retail sector, Preston & Partners has recently filled a number of roles, including COO; EVP of sales & merchandising; SVP of operations; SVP of localization; VP of merchandising; VP of planning & allocation; VP of merchandise information operations; CIO; VP of marketing; and VP of product and process development.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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