November 20, 2020 – Retailers are facing major shifts in their businesses that call for “unprecedented responses” by CEOs who can effectively lead through change, intuitively and analytically understand the evolving consumer, and respond to ambiguity, according to search consultants. Developed markets, excess retail capacity, rising prices, the shift to omni-channel retail and the unpredictable pace of change in consumer shopping habits all affect the type of leader that retailers need.
New York-based retail and consumer focused executive search firm Herbert Mines Associates recently partnered with specialty clothing retailer rue21 in the recruitment of Bill Brand as the company’s chief executive officer. He will take the helm from interim CEO John Fleming, who will return as a board member. Past CEO Michael Appel stepped down in February.
“We chose Bill because of his impressive track record in building high performance teams and his industry-recognized leadership abilities to modernize retail brands,” said Mr. Fleming. “Under his leadership, we will leverage rue21’s recent growth by doubling down on omni-channel enhancements to create more compelling customer experiences.”
“This pandemic proved that our brand promise has significant staying power,” said Scott Vogel, rue21’s board chairman. “During one of the most tumultuous times in retail history, John brilliantly steered the brand to not only survive when myriad retailers liquidated, but thrive beyond our expectations. Now, Bill’s ability to build teams around understanding the customer at every touch point makes his appointment the next natural progression in accelerating rue21’s transformation.”
Mr. Brand, who has a track record of being a visionary leader that builds high performing teams, is credited for his ability to accelerate growth by creating unique brand experiences. Most recently, as president of HSN and as chief retail officer of Carnival Corp., Mr. Brand led teams to build out sophisticated omni-channel infrastructure that drove revenue to record highs. At Carnival, he was recruited to lead the creation of a new retail arm for the $18 billion global cruise company that serves 13 million guests per year. Mr. Brand serves as vice chair of the National Retail Federation Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International, and is on the board of directors of the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation.
“The opportunity to grow a retail brand with such a strong foundation and brand commitment to fashion, affordability and inclusivity is one that both humbles and thrills me,” said Mr. Brand. “I’m excited to leverage the unique momentum that rue21 has achieved during this historic time and I’d like to congratulate the entire team on their efforts. I can’t wait to meet with this dedicated team and work alongside associates to leverage our collective strengths,” he said. “Through creative partnerships and programs, we will bring our customers new experiences that will further connect them with one of the most compelling, yet under the radar brands in the U.S.”
Performing Well During a Pandemic
Headquartered in Warrendale, PA, the company operates over 673 stores in 45 states and online at www.rue21.com. The “trend right,” affordable fashion retailer is one of the few with a positive story to tell: store re-openings after pandemic closures outperformed year-over-year monthly sales. Most recently, rue21’s business is up double digits compared to the total apparel market being down 12 percent in September. The retailer recently opened new brick-and-mortar stores.
Established in 1978, Herbert Mines is a specialist search firm focusing on the retail, fashion and apparel, beauty, consumer products and services, hospitality, leisure, restaurant and digital/technology industries. The firm is noted for its C-suite recruiting work.
Herbert Mines recently partnered with alternative investment firm Bain Capital in the recruitment of Bill Barton as president and CEO of Bob’s Discount Furniture in Manchester, CT. Mr. Barton has more than three decades of experience developing and leading high-growth businesses. Most recently, he spent 11 years as CEO of California Closets, the category leader in home organization solutions and a unit of FirstService Brands, which is a subsidiary of FirstService Corp. Bob’s Discount Furniture is one of the largest and fastest growing furniture retailers in the U.S. Since 2015, the company has more than doubled its store count, from close to 60 locations to 135.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media